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The Book Doctor | The 4-Hour Workweek

Tim Ferriss's 4-hour work week system sounds too good to be true. Is it?
by Caitlin Schiller | Jun 14 2016
Caitlin Schiller is head writer and editor at Blinkist Magazine. She has two literature degrees. She has worked as a writer, agency-side and freelance, for almost ten years.
Caitlin Schiller
20 June2016

Dear Book Doctor,

I saw Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek the other day when I was at the airport shop. I mean, the idea is pretty appealing, but come on. Just four hours of work, is that even possible? Should I trust Ferriss and buy this book, or is there another book I should read that will help me cut down on my work time”,
The 4-Hour Skeptic

Dearest 4-Hour Skeptic,

Did you have a nice trip? I hope you got yourself a nice treat before your flight, right after you side-eyed the dickens out of The 4-Hour Workweek. I’m pleased you inquired after how realistic a four-hour work week actually is, because I myself have wondered.

Tim Ferriss built his system based on his own life experience, which went like this: he strived and worked himself to the quick for a few years to get his company off the ground, then, due to a burnout, downgraded his work week to just four hours. The odd thing is that his advice to all of his readers is to simply start there, without the solid foundation that years of hustle provides. Methinks this equation not entirely seaworthy—much like this pseudo-Shakespeare diction.

What also hoists my left eyebrow into my hairline is his whole muscle-man schtick. He’s written extensively about gaining a Herculean amount of muscle in just a few weeks, but elides a basic biological truth: that building muscle in such a short time is fairly easy if you’ve previously built up that mass through hard, years-long work before, lost it, and are simply pumping it back up again like a very fleshy pool toy. Color me dubious.

But it’s not all bad. Some of Ferriss’s advice is actually really useful: namely, don’t end up as a desk slave, write your own rules, and don’t waste your time with email and other time thieves. Particularly when it comes to time management and email/social media use, he’s got some very solid ideas. Plus, he helped popularize the idea of outsourcing, which is a very good thing so long as it’s not exploitative. At Blinkist, we also like his podcast.

But Skeptic, perhaps the single best thing about this book is the title. Oh, that title! It’s as sticky and delicious as a butter pecan nut roll fresh out of the oven. What’s more, this book was published in 2007, before clickbait headlines had oozed their way all over the internet. His talent for titles (and trend-setting?) is worthy of respect.

To close this one up, Skeptic, the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. You can trust Tim as far as you find his ideas useful, but I suggest you hold off on expecting to pare your workload down to a mere four hours a week. Grab your critical lens, affix it to your reading eye, and give The 4-Hour Work Week a read—you might get some insights on time management and some accidental pointers on how to promote your personal brand like a champ!

You asked about other reading, so to supplement The 4-Hour Work Week, try So Good They Can’t Ignore You which covers the merits of gaining mastery through diligent practice, and The Power of Less, which will help you pare back the non-essentials so you get closer to that mythical four hours.

Wishing you at least four hours of good luck,
The Book Doctor

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