How to Maximize Your Day Job While Creating a 4 Hour Work Week

Note: Rather than doing a straight review of The 4 Hour Work Week (I’m sure you’ve read a few already) I’ve compiled some suggestions for how to apply the information it contains.

When Tim Ferriss came out with the promise of the The 4-Hour work Week you probably scoffed, “Impossible! Who does this guy think he is, tearing down our cultural institutions and promoting delusions of world travel and perpetual semi-retirement!” This was natural. All new ideas are initially resisted. It’s hard to accept a concept that radically opposes everything you’ve been taught about money, employment, and the ideal lifestyle. The book prompted me reevaluate my direction, and from what I’ve read, it had the same effect on many others.

Now that we’ve had time to digest the ideas, the powerful logic behind The 4-Hour work Week is impossible to ignore. Who wouldn’t want to trade those monotonous days under neon lights in a beige windowless room for a backpacking trip through the Alps or a crash course in SCUBA diving? If it’s so easy to automate income and join the New Rich, why not me too?

Unfortunately, going from a steady office job to New Rich is easier said than done. Even when you understand the concepts of The 4-Hour work Week, there is still the practical business of developing an income stream, testing, automating, and scaling to the point where you can support your ideal lifestyle with room to spare. These changes don’t happen overnight, and for first time entrepreneurs, building a business from scratch is an intimidating task. Most of us have rent and other expenses that require a steady income stream. We can’t afford to walk away from our day jobs without anything to fall back on.

Although we can’t join the New Rich today, a 4 hour work week is attainable. The beauty of the idea is that automated income can be developed on the side. If you plan on keeping your job, you don’t even have to do that much. A 4 hour work week is easier said than done, but following these simple recommendations will put you on the path to reaching your goal.

1. Develop Time Management Skills

The ability to process information quickly and effectively is the cornerstone of the 4 hour work week. Unfortunately, the typical office job trains you to do exactly the opposite. Everyone needs to look busy for 8 hours a day, so there isn’t any motivation to work efficiently. Simple tasks tend to drag on for hours and distractions are a welcome break from the monotony.

To join the New Rich you’ll need to break out of this mindset and master time management. A great place to start is batching. Instead of letting email be a constant interruption, close Outlook (trust me, it can be done) and only open it at specific times during the day. You’ll find plowing through 20-30 emails at once is exponentially faster than answering one at a time. The concept of batching can be applied to any group of similar tasks. Your biggest problem will be figuring out how to use all the spare time.

2. Investigate Niche Markets

By far, the biggest obstacle to a four hour work week is creating an automatable moneymaker, or as Tim calls it, finding the Muse. No one can tell you exactly how to do this because every person and every opportunity is unique. For someone with no entrepreneurial experience it seems impossible.

Fortunately, the book provides a framework for finding a niche market, testing it for profitability, and launching your product. If you’re interested in doing this, you need to read the book. The process is far too detailed to explain here, but the first step is brainstorming a niche.

To create a profitable business, you’ll need to solve an existing problem and reach people who need that problem solved. The best place to start is targeting people similar to yourself because you’re able understand their needs. What type of specialized knowledge do you possess? What social groups do you belong to? What past problems have you overcome? Turning these questions into a successful business won’t be easy, but the sooner you start investigating niche markets the more likely you’ll find a golden opportunity.

3. Build a Cash Reserve

Although launching a small business doesn’t require millions of dollars, it is a significant investment. Market testing, product development, manufacturing, and advertising all cost money. You can rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt (like Tim did), but building up a cash reserve to draw from is a safer alternative.

What this comes down to is prioritizing your expenses. Would you rather eat out a few times a week, or cook at home and invest the money you save in creating your ideal lifestyle? When you think about it this way the choice is easy. Those fancy restaurants, expensive gadgets, and other superfluous luxuries quickly lose their appeal.

4. Become a Superstar Employee

You’re probably thinking, “How does this make sense? I thought the idea was to ditch the day job?” Oddly enough, becoming a better employee can help achieve this objective. If you don’t plan to leave your job this is the most important step. You need to make yourself as valuable as possible to your employer so that when you attempt to negotiate a remote work arrangement, giving you what you want will be more appealing than losing you to a competitor.

This is also important for aspiring entrepreneurs. Even if you don’t want to be an employee forever, sulking around the office won’t get you anywhere. I’m not suggesting you start putting in 14 hour days, but why not make the best of the situation? Becoming a great employee will help you develop excellent work habits, make connections you can leverage down the road, and allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t work when running a business.

5. Make use of your spare time

Above all, this is the most important point. A 4 hour work week isn’t going to build itself. Creating your ideal lifestyle will require an enormous effort with many failures along the way. There’s a reason most people work 40 hour weeks – sticking with the status quo is easy. You don’t have to do anything except show up and do a good enough job not to get fired.

What it comes down to is desire. How bad you want the life of your dreams? Are you willing to sacrifice every moment of your spare time in the present in order to liberate yourself in the future? This appears to be an easy choice, but implementing it is difficult. You’ll need to delay gratification for months, maybe years, until your hard work comes to fruition.

By writing The 4-Hour work Week, Tim has given us the blueprint to the ideal lifestyle. The rest falls on our shoulders. Can you put off enjoying your life until retirement? This is a choice everyone makes whether they are conscious of it or not. Now that you know working 40+ hours a week into your 60’s isn’t the only alternative, what are you going to do about it?


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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