The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss has got to the most well-known Bible on how to minimise working and maximise your life. Despite it sitting on my shelf for years, it took minimalism month for me to dust it off and give it a read.
This was no love at first page book; in fact, it took me approximately 100 pages to appreciate it. I generally do not enjoy ‘self-help-I did it, now you can too-with my expertise’ style writing, so naturally this book wasn’t going to gel with me.
If I had to pinpoint what I disliked most about this book, it would be how Tim talks about outsourcing. A lot of the minimising working relied on outsourcing aspects of your life but employing a virtual assistant who apologises to your wife on your behalf? I think that takes things too far. (For the record, this was a case study of his and not what he did).
However, if you give it a chance, there is plenty wisdom to extract that is applicable to anyone and once I opened myself to the lessons, it became a much more enjoyable read. So before you buy it, to help you determine if it’s the minimalism read for you, here’s what I learnt…
1. We are all plagued and defined by the fundamental question, “what do you do?”. When you take away work – what are you left with? Despite freeing himself from job descriptions and self-descriptions – which he refers to as “an epidemic”, even Tim expresses what I read as relief when he is able to call himself a writer towards the end of the book. Subtracting bad i.e. too much work, doesn’t create good, rather it leaves a vacuum. The premise of his book is not just to decrease work. It’s to live more and become more.
2. Real wealth is determined by how much time and mobility you have, not by how much money is in your bank account. Earning 6 figures but owned by a corporation to the point that you don’t have time to do anything you want or focus on what is important to you? Tim really makes you want to rethink how you design your life.
3. “People don’t want to be millionaires – they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy.” Tim sets out real life examples of things he has experienced that cost less a month of living expenses (in the US) and gets you to ask, “how can I achieve a lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?”
4. Planning for retirement is worst-case scenario insurance, working mini-retirements into your life is the way to go. Many of us throw away our most physically capable years in pursuit of a day that may never come. “Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?”
5. When it comes to work, more is not better and less is not lazy. If you took the time to analyse how much time you spent being mindlessly busy as opposed to productive, how much time would you free up?
6. Timing is never right. If you’re putting off something you really want to do because conditions aren’t ideal, consider that the stars will never perfectly align. If it’s important to you, just do it. If fear is holding you back, by defining what you’re afraid of will help you conquer your fears.
7. You need people. Streamlining your work life in the way Tim proposes is reliant on others. Aside for the outsourcing of tasks to employees or virtual assistants, Tim speaks about a friend who kept him on the ‘straight and narrow’. “Whenever one of us began to set our sights lower, lose faith or “accept reality”, the other would chime in via phone or e-mail like an AA sponsor.”
8. “Problems, as a rule, solve themselves or disappear if you remove yourself as an information bottleneck and empower others.”
9. Starting something doesn’t mean you should finish it. Sometimes an article is bad, or halfway through something that has taken you months of planning and executing, you realise it isn’t serving you. Put it down and don’t resume. “Just because something has been a lot of work or consumed a lot of time doesn’t make it productive or worthwhile.” Don’t let pride stop you
10. Learn to be difficult when it counts.
11. E-mail consumption and production is the ‘greatest single interruption in the modern world’. Truth – try turning on autoresponders and checking your email once a day and see how much more you can achieve.
12. There is no right or wrong answer to “what should I do for the rest of my life” so forget it altogether.
13. It’s important to separate your working, living and relaxing areas. Work should happen in a single space or else you’ll never be able to escape it.
14. Freedom is achieved when you are able to free yourself from the materialistic addictions that caused you to get stuck in the stresses of our speed and size-obsessed culture. “There are tons of things in your home and life that you don’t use, need, or even particularly want.” Tim suggests that this ‘creates indecision and distractions’ and that ‘It is impossible to realising how distracting all the crap is – until you get rid of it’. I’m inclined to agree. Try to remove one toxic or unnecessary thing in your life and see how much free-er you’ll feel. This is the smartest form of minimalism.
Photography and Styling: Zissy Lewin
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