The 4-Hour Workweek: How To Take Mini Retirements

the 4 hour workweek

Timothy Ferriss, a twenty-nine-year-old, self-proclaimed member of the New Rich, recently published his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek. In his book, Ferriss proposes that retirement should be worst-case scenario insurance and that we’d all be better off taking mini-retirements throughout our lives instead of postponing true freedom until age 65 or later, calling retirement the “deferred life plan.” He sets forth a detailed four-step plan designed to get us to live more and work less now, not later. Each chapter contains several action steps to take and questions to answer for yourself, preferably in a journal. This format, if you actually follow it, will put you closer to defining what you really want to be doing with your time and figuring out how to get there. The book assumes that, as part of achieving this new lifestyle, you can either negotiate a remote work agreement with your current employer (preferably, an agreement that has you out of the office all five days a week) or that you’re willing to become an entrepreneur.

The four steps to achieving this lifestyle are:

Definition – What components characterize the lifestyle of the New Rich, and how does this lifestyle differ from (and work better than) what most people do?

Elimination – Expands upon Pareto’s 80/20 principle and teaches you how to do more work in less time.

Automation – Putting your cash flow (income generation) and life management (bill paying, business management, etc.) on autopilot.

Liberation – Avoiding being confined to one location due to work, whether that’s a particular office, geographic location, or both.

In the Definition section, Chapter 2 gives you new rules to live by, like “less is not laziness,” explaining that “our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity,” and “the timing is never right,” whether it’s time to quit your job or to make any other major decision in your life. Chapter 3 conquers the fear of leaving your job by helping you define the worst-case scenario that could occur when you quit and determine how you would handle it. Chapter 4 proposes that unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve because you have less competition and more adrenaline. (While I think there’s some truth to this idea, I don’t think it should be presented as a fact.) This chapter also defines boredom, rather than sadness, as the opposite of happiness, and excitement as what most people are really seeking in their lives.

In the Elimination section, Ferriss says that instead of trying to be as busy as possible (efficient), we need to learn to be as effective as possible (getting as much truly necessary work done in as little time as possible). Doing your hardest task before 11:00 every day will make you feel a lot more relaxed throughout the day and help you accomplish difficult tasks more quickly (it really works). He points out that the typical 9-5 workday is an arbitrary schedule that doesn’t really have anything to do with working effectively (Amen, brother!). Chapter 6 provides an excellent crash course in speed reading and shows you how to stop the inflow of useless information into your life (because it takes up time and mental space that could be put to a better use), while Chapter 7 gives extremely valuable information on how to get others to stop wasting your time by managing emails, phone calls, and in-person interruptions more effectively.

In the Automation section, Chapter 8 explains how to outsource your life to surprisingly inexpensive virtual assistants in order to free up your time as well as teach you how to be a boss if you’ve never done it before, so that you’ll later have one of the skills necessary to run your own company. I found this to be one of the most fascinating chapters in the book. Chapter 9 teaches you a method for making the amount of money you need to pursue your dreams with as little time and effort as possible so that you can pursue excitement with the rest of your time instead of slaving away in someone else’s office for 40+ hours a week. This chapter is much more detailed and action-oriented than I expected after reading similar suggestions about being a business owner in books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In fact, Ferriss’s plan extends for a full three chapters. However, he fails to address some of the additional stresses of being a business owner or the tax implications.

In the Liberation section, Chapter 12 outlines step-by-step how to convince your company to let you work from home. Chapter 13 attempts to allay your fears about quitting your job if working from home in your current job just isn’t an option, and Chapter 14 is all about traveling cheaply and well overseas, again with quite a bit of detail and suggested outside resources, but also with the assumption that traveling overseas is how you would prefer to spend your free time. Chapter 15 seeks to help you avoid the depression that can seep in when you’re having a hard time figuring out what to do with your new found time, and Chapter 16 lists thirteen “slip-ups you will make,” which is a great way to head off discouragement before it even happens.

If you’re not sure if this book is for you, Ferriss’s blog will give you almost as much information as the book itself (for free). Impressively, Ferriss, or someone acting on his behalf, actually manages to reply to all comments left on his blog and provides easy ways for readers to contact him with questions. The website also contains reader-only resources that can be accessed by entering a specific word from a specific location in the book.

Probably the main gripes I had with the book were how easy it makes totally overhauling your life sound and the strong emphasis on using your new found free time to become a world traveler. For Ferriss, taking advantage of what other countries have to offer that the United States does not is clearly the preferred way to spend his time, and his point about spending time abroad in order to break yourself of the workaholic American mindset certainly has merit. As someone who likes to travel myself, I appreciated his detailed advice on how to travel cheaply and well, but as someone who also has people at home that she doesn’t want to spend extended periods of time away from, I would have appreciated some insights on what someone might do with all this free time if they would rather stay right where they are. Volunteer work and taking classes immediately come to mind for me, but I’m sure there are other options that most people wouldn’t come up with on their own.

Overall, the book both made me feel amazing by reminding me of all the possibilities that are out there (once you’ve been in the same routine for a few years, you start to forget) while also making me feel sick to my stomach that I wasn’t living my life to its fullest. The book’s warning, “Don’t read this book unless you’re ready to quit your job,” is dead-on. But I think you should read this book even if you don’t want to quit your job. Reading about all of the possibilities this book presents motivated me to take significant steps towards achieving some of my goals, like taking classes and going on a trip to Europe, and it will motivate you, too — which makes The 4-Hour Workweek well worth the $12, if you ask me.

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5 Responses to The 4-Hour Workweek: How To Take Mini Retirements

  1. The statement that we should take “mini-retirements” throughout our lives is something I TOTALLY agree with.

    In fact, that is exactly what I do. Last summer I bought an RV and worked roughly 10 hours over the course of 8 weeks. Then fall rolled around and I worked a bit more but as this summer approaches I plan to be on yet another mini-retirement.

    I do this by running my own internet business.

    My office is my laptop computer.

    Work can be done anywhere there is an internet connection.

    In fact I am into launching a training program to teach others exactly how to achieve this lifestyle, here is the location to get more information

    Basically, I only work when I need more money and that’s usually when I want to buy something such as a new car or mega home theater system.

    It’s easier than most people think to become the “New Rich”

  2. Teri says:


    The book sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing. I, to a degree, tend to live my life in this fashion. Picking the right career which I both love and gives me great flexibility is key for me. BEing extremely productive and making myself invaluable as well. Picking a career where time off is okay and pay is better than many FT jobs, has all been key but I have had great flexibility in all my jobs to date.

    I personally don’t have the personality for self-employment or to work at home. I do NOT like working from home. But the ability to do so in general translates to a flexibile job and I can agree. When the kids are sick I don’t have to use sick time, I just work from home. Working 9-5 is less important than simply getting the job done on my own time, which I Really appreciate.

    My goal has been to work part-time by the time I hit my 40s, and into retirement. At 30 I have had significant time off work the last decade. Done with college and having babies I see little excuse in the near-term future to take a chunk of time, but if I up and decided to take 6 months off today I would still have a job waiting for me, and that is the great part of being in this position. We have considered moving so I could keep my job, work from home (thought I would hate that part in a sense) but work far less hours as we enjoyed a lower cost of living. For now we value too much being near family, but it is so freeing that is an option. I think if I lost my job it might be the first thing I would do. While others would fret, we would simply move and enjoy a simpler lifestyle.

    Thanks for sharing, I am interested to read the book now!

    I am not sure all of this would have been so possible before the internet age though. IT is amazing how freeing it is.

  3. Amy F. says:

    Thanks for your always thoughtful comments. I am curious what you do for a living, if you don’t mind sharing. I’m always interested to hear how other people attain flexibility in their work.

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  5. Teri says:

    I am a CPA actually. The field is just crazy right now – not a lot of qualified people. But I chose the career as one I would enjoy, but more importantly, pays very well, is flexibile, can find a job anywhere, there will always be a demand for us, etc.

    In the beginning of my career I saw great pay raises and could take on little responsobility (phew – more responsibility means less felxibility in a sense). But the shortage of accountants has gotten so extreme the opposite is really true. There are woman here who have worked here for decades happy to take on less responsibility and not move ahead to “partner” but me being both young and experienced I have been really pushed to more responsibility out of necessity. We are short like 3 employees at the least. So it has been a little tough to maintain the balance. Then again I work far less and get paid better than most people I know my age. So it goes.

    Interestingly, CPA firms are hiring good, experienced bookeepers at CPA wages these days. They are so desparate for help. Experience weighs heavier than the CPA designation in a sense – which to me is good – I can see taking on some freelance bookkeeping in later years to cut back hours. They pay is REALLY good.

    The only downside I find now to my job is to cut to part-time I would have to give up ALL my benefits. But I Am eyeing a state job when my boss retires so I can get the benefits and work far less. In the meantime I have earned enough vacation time that I work less hours in the summer, which works out because it is slower in the summer. BEing as the field is so thin right now, I would feel awful if I took the summer off, but cine it was slower everyone would probably be fine and I would no dount have a job. I think also this is key – is down the road I could work only during tax season if I like. I was offered a job a few years back which was full-time during tax season and part time the rest of the year – at quite good pay. I don’t think I thought of that so much when I picked career, but the seasonal nature I think lends to much flexibility as well.

    The only thing I don’t get is I enjoy much flexibility and good benefits and pay. I have too many friends in this field who prefer to be out on their own but they carry much more stress, lower pay, and less benefits. I find that whole thing a little odd. It’s like a state of mind. It may be rare, but you can find better in traditional employment if you look hard enough. I’ll take my job any day over the crazy hours they work in the name of “flexibility.”

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