Top 5 Tips from "The 4-hour Workweek"

I recently read "The 4-Hour Workweek" from Tim Ferriss. It had some really good ideas that I've started using and that seem to be paying off. I'm really only talking about three chapters. The book frankly has a lot of "You too could be lying on a beach in the Bahamas" kind of hype that sells to somebody but not me. That said, it was worth the price just for the information that applied to me.

1. Most of what you do is a waste of time. I can see some people reacting badly to this, but I've always known, even when I've been most productive, that I spend the majority of my time in worthless meetings, yacking with people, and multitasking between stupid email, stupid IMs, and stupid social media.  Tim expresses it in terms of the 80/20 rule--you generate 80 percent of your value in 20 percent of your time.  The other 80 percent? Wasted dealing with stuff that barely matters.

Tim's whole idea is to eliminate that time so that (a) you build a reputation for churning out only high-quality, high-value work and (b) you have the remainder of the time to do with as you please.

He reverses the 80/20 idea as well, encouraging us to eliminate the 20% of stuff that causes 80% of our problems.  To sum up, just get rid of it.

2. Interruptions must be eliminated. He has several good ideas for eliminating interruptions.  Just to list a few:
  • Get rid of inbox notifications of every kind.
  • Put IM on do not disturb or turn it off.
  • When someone calls, tell them you have another call in just a few minutes, and ask them what you can do quickly to help them.
  • Let calls go to voice mail.
Actually I can't remember whether these are all his or whether I added something. In any case, I applied these suggestions liberally and nothing suffered as a result. Almost all interruptions are not time sensitive and most of them are not even important.

3. Block out high-value time in the morning. During the most valuable hours of the morning, put everything on "Do Not Disturb" and turn off alerts and indicators. Use that time to pound out your most valuable contributions. Don't let anything of low value invade that time. Make sure that your highest value job for that day is done when you're finished. Doing this consistently will make you shine as your work is done well and early every time.

4. Artificially constrain your time. This was the most original concept I found in these chapters. Tim reflects on assignments that he's had to complete at the last minute. We've all experienced this: something is due now that requires days of work. Somehow we get it done, complaining and stress not withstanding. How did we get it done? Tim says that we focus only on the critical pieces, throwing out everything that isn't necessary. We don't waste time on tangents, satisfying curiosity, or dilly dallying.

This is important because it is the exact complement of what we are after in the first place. We want to focus on important stuff to save time, but constraining our time helps us focus on important stuff.

I really liked this idea.

5. Dang, I don't have a #5. I accidentally combined two things earlier on. In any case, I recommend the book highly as a fresh way to approach time management and productivity, even if it only means reading a minor portion of the book.

If you've read the book, let me know which of these ideas worked for you.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Another one...or two or three...

Reduce switching time. Switching between task costs valuable time.
I find it better to group tasks the way that similar tasks are done in one flow.

Avoid that tasks become urgent by setting early deadlines for youself to get them accomplished.

Disable push email on the mobile phone. That give you the opportunity to decide when to read emails. If something is urgent people will call you anyway.
Time off is recovery time.