Should We Really Strive for a 4 Hour Workweek?

The concept of a “4 hour” workweek is very compelling.  You have your interests, and then you have your work.  If you can spend less time on work and still make enough money, simple math will tell you that you have more hours in the day for the things that really capture your interest.

This is what Tim Ferriss envisioned when he redesigned his life and outlined his story and methods in The 4-Hour Workweek.  The plan is simple to describe: DEAL. Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation.  It’s obviously much more difficult to implement.

I run the risk of contradicting the very name of my blog when I ask this question:  Should we really strive for a four hour workweek?

[Warning: This post consists mostly of my entrepreneurial ramblings.]

Hmm…Maybe.

Of course this question doesn’t have a definite answer, but I’m in the mood to examine both sides of this discussion.  Let’s start with “yes,” some people should strive for a four hour workweek.  If you’re in a job or business that you dislike (or hate) and there’s no end in sight for reasons beyond your control (although I believe you always have some control over the situation), you probably should try to work as little as possible while remaining sufficiently productive.

There are a lot of ways to work less while remaining productive, especially because we spend so much of our time “working for work’s sake” (or W4W as Ferriss describes it).  I’m not going to get into those right now, but I’ve already written about trimming down your “9 to 5″ day, avoiding conversation, staying focused to get more done at work, and how to say “no.”

The bottom line is, if you’re not doing what you love right now, you should be focused on efficiency and reducing your time spent working, so that you have extra time to do what you enjoy.  There will always be 24 hours in a day, and it’s up to you to allocate those hours to best of your ability.  A literal “four hour workweek” is very likely impossible if you’re a regular employee, but I think with a little bit of strategy, you can knock 40 hours down to 30, or 60 down to 40.

Say NO to the 4 Hour Workweek

I don’t mean the book – you should definitely read that.  What I do mean is that you should never even put yourself in a position where you want to work less. You certainly don’t want it to negatively impact your relationships and your other interests, but I strongly believe you should find a way to do what you love, because the reality of life is that most of us will spend more than 50% of the hours we’re awake, working.

A lot of people try to quit their jobs and go into their own businesses hoping to free themselves of the long work days.  The fact of the matter is, if you’re doing it right, your work days will get longer.  There’s a lot of reasons why people fail in business, and this is certainly one of them.  Some people are just not cut out for hard work, and that trait doesn’t translate well to entrepreneurship.

What About Me?

As you may know, I’ve been trying for the past few months to escape my job and start my own business, and it still hasn’t happened yet.  It’s not because I don’t have ideas or because I enjoy my 9 to 5 job (trust me, I don’t).  If anything, I have too many ideas and can’t pick one to focus on.  The biggest reason has been that entrepreneurship is about risk and I haven’t been willing to take on that risk yet.

My day will come, and I’m hoping it happens this year.  What I’m really trying to do is get something in motion before I quit my day job, but it’s very difficult to work hard on a business when there simply aren’t enough free hours in a day.  I know it’s going to come down to taking on the risk, and it’s something I will eventually be willing to do.

What I know for sure is that I’m not looking for a four hour workweek.  Even when I’m at a retirement age, I don’t think I’ll ever stop working.  I love work – I love challenges and keeping my mind constantly engaged.  Competition is my ultimate motivator, and I thrive on it.  I’m not sure how I could get any of that without working more than “four hours” a week.

What do you think?

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28 Responses to “Should We Really Strive for a 4 Hour Workweek?”

  1. What you’re looking for is a balance between the hours you have to work (whether it’s 4 or more) to make the income you need, the amount of hours you feel comfortable working but which also allows you the freedom you want to have. Being self employed gives you the freedom to do the projects you want to do in stead of the ones you have to do because you’re doing the work for someone else. It also gives you the freedom to work less or zero hours for a while because you want to do something else.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Rene, I think you’re absolutely right. It’s definitely a tough balance to achieve, but who ever said entrepreneurship was easy? :)

    [Reply]

  2. Success is all about having options, nothing takes the sting out of work like not having to do it.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Haha, well said. I may need to quote you on that at some point.

    [Reply]

  3. I’m with you, man. Its not good to just want to work less or to stop being active. Staying involved in some kind of work keeps you going. I read recently that most of the people who retire early, live about ten years less than those who stay active and work well into their 70s. Keep at it!

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Sounds good to me! It definitely makes sense that if you keep your mind engaged in your older years (by working), you’ll stay sharper than those who don’t.

    [Reply]

  4. Good post, and great things to consider. I think every person has their own version of balanced. For me, I had a great set up in the U.S. of working 2 days a week with clients then using the other days “off” –meaning more off from people than off from work.

    When I went abroad a year and a half ago, I launched my new site and changed my model. I could have a 4 hour workweek from Thailand. And, I did that for nearly a year… but here is what I found: I got lazy.

    If I’m on a “no real schedule” set up, I get very little done.

    Now, I’m teaching 17 hours a week, but we’re meant to be on campus or at our desk. This gives me structure, discipline (I have to get up and be somewhere, so it makes me get up), and I have friends and opportunities that wouldn’t happen if I was working from home. It’s a good set-up, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful running 2 jobs at once. But, it takes time to build a business, an audience, and a successful product launch, and in a down economy, multiple incomes are a very good thing ;)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Brooke, that’s an awesome story, and it sounds like you’re doing really well for yourself now. I think I would be very similar with regard to working minimal hours – it would probably cause me to become very lazy too.

    [Reply]

  5. Eric, I found your site when I was at problogger. Your website name got my attention.
    If I may say, it is all about how you define work.

    I heard Tim Ferris being interviewed once. He actually spends more than 4 hours a week doing writing, interviews… activities some people would define as work but he does not.
    The things he does not like to do he defines as work and those he does for 4 hours a week and the rest he outsources. I am sure you know this.

    The goal, I guess, everyones goal, is to pass our lives doing great things we love and enjoy and getting paid for them. I have presented hundreds of seminars on wellness http://www.thewondertechnique.com and got well paid but truly I would have done them for free (but yes, I like being paid too – its a value for value thing plus I have a family. )

    Now I have started a new business to help people create and grow their own wellness business (could be coaching, yoga, martial arts,professional speaking – any kind of wellness biz) . You might find some useful information on my site as you work on your project of getting CPA Freedom. The site is http://www.growyourwellnessbiz.com
    Cheers,
    David

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I agree, David. If you don’t define the things you love as “work” and you mainly focus on doing the things you love…well…I guess you aren’t working much at all. :) And of course, getting paid is a nice bonus when you’re doing what you love.

    Your new business sounds interesting – I’ll definitely check out the site.

    [Reply]

    David Hennessey Reply:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for reading and responding to my comment.

    By the way, I noticed another person mentioned Rich Dad,Poor Dad – I will say as well it is a good book to read. I have read it twice. The author also have several other books that follow up and expand more on the original book.

    For what is it worth, on my site I will be doing some book reviews in the future if you are interested. I am a bit of a book addict having read hundreds of books on personal and business development.

    Another book that covers a lot of ideas that can help you find the right path to financial freedom is the one minute millionaire. You can look out for my review and feedback soon on my site http://www.GrowYourWellnessBiz.com

    Cheers,
    David

    [Reply]

  6. Have you read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki?
    maybe that will help you bring ideas :)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the suggestion! I haven’t read it yet, but everyone keeps telling me to. I have a feeling it’ll make an appearance on my monthly reading list soon.

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  7. Great post. I just put up a giant of a rambler myself. I think it’s a somewhat tricky question, because I always want to be working on something over 40 hours a week, but I don’t necessarily want to be in employment to anyone else or myself for 40 hours a week. I love creative writing, movies, art, that sort of thing – so I’d have no problem spending 60 hours a week helping out a buddy who is an independent film maker just to see how it all works. To me that wouldn’t really be work, and if I could get enough passive income to not have to freelance, I’d have no problem doing something like that.

    I think the emphasis that I agree with from the 4 hour work week is I want to be very ACTIVE all the time with a pet project or my own business or something I’m passionate about so in that respect don’t go for a 4 hour work week to have “free time,” but do it so you can fill your time with what you REALLY want to do.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment ! I think what you said is exactly right – in the end, number of hours shouldn’t even matter – it’s all about doing what you want to be doing.

    [Reply]

  8. I think it’s all about the position that you are in and what you feel comfortable doing. I consider myself a workaholic and don’t know if I could just work 4 hours a week.

    The whole point is to look for something that can allow us the 4 hour work week. A business that we have built up that will provide financial freedom as well as time freedom and if we wanted to we could work 50 hours a week on or on the other hand not work at all but still have it running sufficiently.

    Life is all about sacrifices and it is risky to do things that make you uncomfortable in the beginning but once you actually get out of your comfort zone and do it the faster you will see positive things happening.

    Anna

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Anna – I especially like your last sentence there about getting out of your comfort zone. I think this has been my “missing piece” of getting where I want to be, so I appreciate the advice.

    [Reply]

  9. Hi Eric,

    Interesting post you have written and I stumbled across your blog when I was catching up with Chris Ducker.

    What you said about living the four hour work week is yes people can strive towards it, but whether or not it suits you is another thing. I have found I enjoy having the flexibility of running a lifestyle business and working 10 to 15 hours a week but at the same time I don’t treat anything I do as work – because I love what I do.

    I did a recent interview with Sean Ogle from Location180 and we talked about this and how we can help people like yourself take that next step out of a full time job into creating a lifestyle business. I know your feeling of taking that next step and sometimes it’s just not looking back – which is what I did over 4 years ago.

    Well, I hope to see you on the lifestyle journey and living the so called “4 hour work week”!

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Tyrone!

    [Reply]

  10. My twitter conversation w/ the author

    charleshb: @My4HWW #4hww doesnt mean 0 work Its abt makng a muse th@ pays max $ 4 min time&effort freeing U 2 wrk on wh@ U love whethr U R paid or not (06/10/2010 5:44:31 PM from TwitterGadget)

    My4HWW: @charleshb You are absolutely right! One day it’ll happen.. :) (06/10/2010 11:52:01 PM from web in reply to charleshb)

    charleshb: @My4HWW so, didnt u come 2 the same conclusion from your reading/listening of/to #4hww ? Or was post a devil’s advocate approach? :-) (06/11/2010 5:56:28 AM from Seesmic) @My4HWW so, didnt u come 2 the same conclusion from your reading/listening of/to #4hww ? Or was post a devil’s advocate approach? :-)

    My4HWW: @charleshb If you get to know me,you’ll find I play devil’s advocate for almost EVERYTHING. I really like to consider multiple perspectives. (06/11/2010 11:22:13 PM from web in reply to charleshb)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Yep, this was indeed our conversation. It’s why I wrote, “Of course this question doesn’t have a definite answer, but I’m in the mood to examine both sides of this discussion” at the beginning of the article. :)

    [Reply]

  11. Great post Eric! Glad to have come across your blog (thanks to Brooke at Business Backpacker)

    I agree, the point isn’t to actually only work 4 hours a week, that’s sloth. But, for most of us, probably a majority of the things we do to create our income are monotonous or things we aren’t the best at or things we despise doing, so it is all about minimizing all that, while still maintaining a healthy cashflow, and creating more time for the things you do enjoy. Not for everyone, but definitely for me that includes working on side businesses and projects that benefit others (the “doing what I love” stuff!) because those usually start out not earning you much money.

    Anyone with the entrepreneurial gene will most likely keep working well after “retirement”, making their contribution to the world around them in one way or another, but we hope to be doing the things we’re truly passionate about by then! :)

    Stumbled! ;)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Cody! I definitely agree with everything you said. By the way, I love your blog – it’s fascinating.

    [Reply]

  12. I would get awfully bored if I only had a 4 hour work week.

    I think its best to strive for self-employment and work as much as you want on that. At least you’re working for yourself and not the man.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Absolutely – and at least if you’re working for yourself, it’s pretty hard to hate your boss!

    [Reply]

  13. Straight from the book, 4HWW:

    3. Less Is Not Laziness.

    Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to
    accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.
    Few people choose to (or are able to) measure the results of their actions and thus measure their contribution in time. More time
    equals more self-worth and more reinforcement from those above and around them. The NR, despite fewer hours in the office,
    produce more meaningful results than the next dozen non-NR combined.
    Let’s define “laziness” anew—to endure a non-ideal existence, to let circumstance or others decide life for you, or to amass a
    fortune while passing through life like a spectator from an office window. The size of your bank account doesn’t change this, nor
    does the number of hours you log in handling unimportant e-mail or minutiae.
    Focus on being productive instead of busy.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Good stuff, Charles. :)

    [Reply]

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wednesday Wisdom | Big Red Tomato Company - July 7, 2010

    [...] has been a  source of inspiration to many people seeking to escape the day job.  Eric, over at My 4 Hour Work Week,  challenges whether people should be looking to work less – definitely worth checking [...]

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