The 4-Hour workweek for the rest of us

Efficiency is my love language. While it’s not officially one of the five love language options, anyone who knows me well will affirm the truth of it. I despise waste.

Given that, I’m a longtime fan of The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I love its radical perspective on work and the notion that much of what we do in the average week is filler rather than true value creation. We’ve become a culture that buckles into the workday and comfortably rides it out through meetings and emails. For many, no self-direction is needed to get a genuine sense of satisfaction thanks to daily firefighting and the constant quest for inbox-zero.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had the luxury to build a culture anchored on working smart. (Handily, it’s also the nature of our business). Here are some of the norms we’ve put into place to streamline how we work as an organization.

Daily rituals for intelligent collaboration:

  • Every meeting and conversation start with a clear statement of purpose. Literally, the first words out of the host’s mouth are “The purpose of this conversation is . . .” This convention keeps us focused and enables us to conclude the meeting as soon as the purpose is achieved.
  • We frame and recap all internal and external conversations. There are no “do-over” meetings here because the results and action items are always documented.
  • Reply-all emails, “thx” and “got it” messages, and meeting acceptances are banned internally. We operate from the assumption that you have it unless you say otherwise which saves dozens of unnecessary emails per day.
  • We book “focus time” on our calendars each week for the important thinking work that needs to be done, label it with the deliverables, and hold it sacred. This ensures an appropriate investment of time on the highest value work.
  • We avoid emailing on nights and weekends and instead send a text if there’s an urgent client need. This gives us all the peace of mind to truly relax and recharge outside of working hours.

I’m not naïve enough to think that a four-hour workweek is feasible for most of us. I do, however, think it’s a fantastic aspiration and one that focuses us on the most important tasks. Holding its principles has helped me consistently work just forty hours per week and take real vacations where I leave my email and my worries behind. That’s the beauty of The 4-Hour Workweek — a radical aspiration as a jumping-off point to a reasonable work life.