by Chris Wendel
Self-help books have always been a quandary for me. I seldom buy wholeheartedly into anything that someone is pushing. I’ll keep my distance and glean what I can, but other than college football and an occasional Bon Jovi concert, I’m not into the herd mentality. That cautious curiosity has served me well along the way, and I’m proud to say that well into my 40’s, I’m still alive and I’ve yet to get wrapped up in any income devouring pyramid schemes.
With that as a backdrop, I offer up the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” with the tag line: “Escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich”. Written by Timothy Ferriss, a 30 year old entrepreneur who among other things has been a world-record holder in tango (how this is achieved is yet to be revealed), a national champion in Chinese kickboxing, and an actor on a hit TV series in Hong Kong.
Credentials aside, Ferriss’ book offers a laundry list of ways to streamline one’s life and outsource the ancillary parts that inhibit productivity. Some of the techniques border on outlandish, while others were compelling to try out on my own.
For example, Ferriss advocates limiting email reading to two times a day, cutting out time wasting web surfing, listening to nothing but music, reading fiction (or Ferriss’ book), mixed in with a maximum of one hour of daily television. It’s my understanding that the idea here is to cut out the useless bombardment of messages and information that deter us from the true creative abilities that we possess.
About a week ago I decided to put some of the book’s parables into action. I had some crucial work deadlines and my attention span was waning. I stopped cold turkey with the web surfing (unless it was essential for work), and watched only one hour a day of daily TV (no news or sports). I have listened mostly to classical music in the car, and limited my reading to a daily hour or so to fiction.
The process of switching off the nonsense was easier than I had anticipated, and also very freeing. I have more time to spend on impactful undistracted conversations, and my ability to zone in on pressing projects has increased dramatically. I’m still working on checking my email only at 12 PM and 4 PM, and when I’m not distracted by email, I realize how more useful my time can be.
Having said this, there is still plenty of territory to explore with “The 4-Hour Workweek”. I’m not saying that I’ve totally drunk the Kool-aid, but with more of Ferriss’ techniques to pursue, I’m still holding on to the hope of pairing down my work week. Four hours? I’m not sure, but tomorrow I’m checking out personal assistants in India that can attend to my more mundane chores. Hopefully then I’ll have newly acquired the hours to actually finish the book. How much I buy into it after that remains to be seen.