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4-Hour Work Week’s Not-To-Do List

Posted by on Mar 22, 2011

I found myself taking a few hours to read the book 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It was an interesting book that maybe one day I’ll write a full review on. Suffice it to say, I found things I liked about it and some thing I didn’t quite like about it as well.

One thing I felt I wanted to add my own comments to is what is listed in the book as The Not-to-Do List: 9 Habits To Stop Now. In Ferriss’ mind, by eliminating these things you not only improve your efficiency but you reduce stress as well. I’m going to list his topic, then add my own opinion, if you don’t mind.

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. I adopted this one in full at the beginning of this year, but I’d actually started it for the most part late last year. I have two lines into my house, and for the last 3 or 4 years I never answer the personal line if I don’t know who it is; actually, I often don’t answer it if I do know who it is since it’s almost always for my wife. For the business line I didn’t answer if it was an 800-number of some kind but always answered other numbers, then realized that most of those are sales calls as well. Now I don’t answer any numbers I don’t recognize; my mind’s at peace with this policy; that’s why I pay extra for voice mail.

2. Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. This one I’m probably not going to change. In his book he talks about having to get used to losing some business for the sake of living the life you want to, and that you’ll find yourself enjoying your time more than what you might lose out on. Truthfully, I start every morning checking email since my hours are erratic, and I get all other work done during the day and love trying to get to the rest of my email in the evenings. I might work at some point to limiting late night email, since I’ve written some stupid stuff at 3AM, but my mornings are staying.

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. Working for myself I have a great handle on this one, which eliminates almost all early morning meetings. I do have to get better at other meetings that I know won’t produce income or contracts, though.

4. Do not let people ramble. In his book, he offers up suggestions for how to help people get to the point such as telling them you only have a few minutes for them. This works well, and is a technique I’ve often used. I think we all have to gauge when to use this or any other techniques and when to let the other person just talk.

5. Do not check email constantly – “batch” and check at set times only. I had to break this habit, and I’d say that I’m about 80% there. I plan my days with free time built in and that’s when I get to emails and other stuff I want to do instead of have to do. Of course he’s only checking email for an hour a week; I don’t see that happening.

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers. This one is hard when you have a finite number of customers, but I understand his point. He loves talking about the Pareto Principle of 80/20, and it makes a lot of sense. Eliminating those people who give you the most grief and turning your attention to those people that give you the most benefit is not only stress relieving, but sometimes you find you don’t have to deal with the folks left all that often because they were satisfied to begin with. Any assistance you give them makes them better, and thus all you usually end up with is improvement and satisfaction.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize. No, that’s not a real word, but he used it. lol This fits in with the principle that says if you know something’s broken fix it so you don’t have to keep fixing it and can get on with other things.

8. Do not carry a cell phone or Crackberry 24/7. He’s not saying don’t have these things at all; just limit your usage of them. I don’t have smartphone, so I’m good thing. And very few people have my cell number so I’m good there as well. But there are a lot of people we all know who seem like they’ve forgotten how to interact with people they’re with because they’re constantly messaging someone or talking on their cell phones, no matter where they are.

9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should. Yes Virginia, there is a work/life issue, and I’m living proof of this. When I was an every day employee, I went until I was 37 without taking even a week’s vacation; the longest I ever took off was 2 days; isn’t that a shame. I only took a week off when I got married, then the next year on our 1st anniversary. It wasn’t until the middle of 2000 when I finally took 2 weeks off in a row and found how relaxing that was.

However, since I’ve worked for myself, I haven’t had a vacation or any time off. It’s harder when you work for yourself, but I’m going to be dealing with that issue this year in some fashion; more on that at a later time. The main concept here is that you need a personal life, and you should substitute your work life for it because work is just that, work.

Those are my thoughts; what are yours?

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Gabriele Maidecchi:

Number 3 is the best tip anyone could ever give out. Meetings without an agenda or end time usually don’t go much far. I’ll go one step beyond and say that I prefer meetings where each topic is assigned a projected time, singularly. I do my meetings like that.
Number 5 is very good too, even if, I admit, I tend to slip in constant-checking-mood more often than not.
Number 6 is hard to come by, especially if you’re not used to it, but I fully agree with the 80/20 principle and it proved very valid for my business as well when I have adopted it.

March 22nd, 2011 | 1:19 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Good stuff Gabriele. I’ve gotten much better at #5, although I think I’ve replaced it with something else. lol At least you and I have the bulk of the list contained.

March 22nd, 2011 | 3:03 PM
Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom:

I read this book a while ago.

I cannot believe he checks email only once a week….

….and outsources work to people in other countries, even giving them his banking information? I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with that!

I thought all in all it was a pretty good book, but I’m not sure I could be as trusting as he is.

March 22nd, 2011 | 9:57 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

He did testing, Carolee, but I’m with you, I’m not quite that trusting either. And checking email only once a week… well, it’s obviously important to things he wants to do, but for me, it ain’t happening. lol

March 23rd, 2011 | 6:12 AM

This is straight to the point, I have seen myself doing similar and also seen my workers spending hours checking emails, chatting or using facebook or spending the time with families and friends on the phone. Generally, it is ok to have a rest from time to time, but not overdoing it.

March 22nd, 2011 | 11:11 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carl, if I could rest forever I’d take it, but I think there are some of these things that I’d miss in my life.

March 23rd, 2011 | 6:13 AM

Hi Mitch

Just lately I’ve seen a few reviews of this book. Not all favourable! I like how you take different points and comment on them.

Like you I check emails in the morning. With my biz, want to answer them cos with time zones may have landed in my in-box hours before. With my other emails most I delete as just spam or the latest must have gizmo!

With meetings, especially if I am doing a session with a newbie, I set a time limit. This is not costing them anything and I realise I have to prioritise my time. May think differently if they are paying clients lol

Should really do that with Twitter and blog commenting too. Trying to be more laser focused but it varies day to day. I am now part of a few groups who get together on Skype.

Had a session this morning. I see that as time well spent cos I was learning from an experienced marketer and will now go implement what is needed.

Also I notice with my marketing friends they are very focused and set time limits for activities. So they motivate me to stay on track too.

Patricia Perth Australia

March 23rd, 2011 | 3:07 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Great stuff, Pat. I actually have a full review of the book coming up on Saturday, but I thought this was interesting to pull out on its own. I know I need to concentrate more on core things as well, which is why I’ve been planning my days lately. It “kind of” works in that I get stuff moving along well. Maybe the issue is in thinking further ahead to see where some of these things might help me get there quicker. But I enjoy some of them a bit more than he does, if you know what I mean.

March 23rd, 2011 | 6:15 AM

Hey Mitch,

I too start by checking my email in the morning but then I never touch it unless I know I got an email or something like that.

#6 is also one that must be taking into consideration, because there are a lot of customers that might take valuable time from your day and only pay 1% of your income. Ditching this clients and taking care of those that provide more then 70-80% of your business will definitely help your save more time, reduce stress, work hours and improve the overall quality of your services.

I have not read the 4 hour work week, but if someone done it, I am sure it can be reproduced, I am not yet aiming to work only four hours a week, but I hope I can achieve a work/life balance that will suite my needs 🙂

March 23rd, 2011 | 3:00 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Alex, in the version I have it seems that many people have put much of what’s in the book into practice. I see some value in a few things, but across the board… no, I’m not feeling it.

March 23rd, 2011 | 5:45 PM
john Falchetto:

Hi Mitch,

Funny I just wrote a post about Tim Ferriss and his 4HWW last week. The methods he talks about aren’t new, but I have a few reservations about the way he thinks he can outsource everything to the lowest bidder abroad.
Also I would never outsource my one-to-one relationships online or offline.

Saying that I think Ferriss is a great marketer and succeeded well in telling people they could get rich quick by buying his book and moving abroad.
Snake oil?

March 23rd, 2011 | 5:25 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

John, I’m not sure if it’s snake oil if he did it. What I believe is that it worked for him and a few other people, but the rest of us have some serious considerations to make before going this route. I’m with you, I wouldn’t want to outsource any of my one-to-one relationships either, and lowest bidder at all costs is a bit too much for my sensibilities. I have a full review of the book coming out on Saturday; looks like great minds are all thinking about this subject at the same time. lol

March 23rd, 2011 | 5:48 PM
Baron Williams:

Hi Mitch, when will you discuss about the remaining 20 hours of your day? I’m willing to get some tips about it. 🙂

March 24th, 2011 | 9:43 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Baron, I’m not on the 4-hour plan just yet. When I am, I’ll let you know all the trouble I’m causing others with all that free time I’ll suddenly have. lol

March 24th, 2011 | 5:22 PM
John Dilbeck:

Hi Mitch,

I fully agree with #1. I just don’t answer the phone unless it’s a number or name I recognize on Caller ID.

#2: I generally make a quick pass through my email inboxes over my first cup of coffee each day. The goal at that time is to delete everything I don’t plan to deal with. If something is critical, I deal with it then. If not, I tend to skim and delete.

That manages to reduce the number of emails I have to respond to — or read closely — from a few hundred every day down to a couple of dozen.

Then, it’s time to leave the email alone and Eat That Frog. 😉

I never check my email except during those times I’ve planned for it. Different email addresses get checked on different schedules. One is checked a few times per day. Another only once. One gets checked only every other day. It’s part of my prioritizing process of time management.

I’ve learned to never check my email late at night (or whenever I’m getting ready for sleep). I don’t necessarily work a normal day. I wake up when I do and work until I’m tired.

That means my schedule adjusts to suit me, not vice versa.

#3, 4, and 8 don’t apply to me. (I’m thinking about getting a cell phone, but only for making calls, not receiving them. I’ll probably give the number only to my daughter, for emergencies. Have I mentioned that I don’t like talking on the phone?)

#6 is very important for some of us. Many years ago, when I was actively engaged in consulting full time, I applied the 90/10 rule to my clients.

Every year, I’d fire the bottom 10% by telling them we could no longer work together. They included the ones who paid late, provided the least income and required the most support, and who were generally disagreeable and hard to work with.

I’d do my best to replace them with people like the top 10% of my client list.

Over time, I enjoyed my work a lot more, had fewer problems, and earned more — and had more free time, too.

#9: I’m not sure of this one. I’m not as work-driven as I used to be, but I still enjoy my work.

Over the last couple of years, while I was feeling so bad, I got out of the habit of working and now I’m trying to re-establish a good work vs. personal time ratio. We’ll see how it goes. (grin)

You’ve seen me disappear from the Web for long periods of time, now and then, and I have no trouble disengaging for awhile. I may not be going to a 4-hour work week, but I’m adopting a 4-day work week.

Note: that doesn’t mean that I won’t be playing on Facebook most days. (grin)


March 27th, 2011 | 3:00 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Great comment, John. I need to work more on the email thing and, truthfully, the time wasting thing. There are times when all I’m doing is going through the cycle to see if there’s any new email or any new news or anything new on Twitter when I could be applying that time to something else. It also says to push myself away from the computer for awhile and just decompress; I don’t do it all that often. That’s why seeing things like this works for me; even if I don’t do them all, it gets me thinking.

March 27th, 2011 | 11:19 AM

All excellent points, Mitch. We all need to practice this strategy daily if we are to truly make our goals.

February 24th, 2012 | 12:23 PM

True Rick, but as we come on the anniversary of when I wrote the post I notice I’m failing miserably at following these rules. lol

February 24th, 2012 | 1:23 PM