How efficiency can create an abundance of free time

“The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is where it all started for me, the concierge of knowledge. One day I began reading Tools of Titans and it led me to his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, the first podcast I’ve ever listened to. And now few years later all the podcasts and book recommendations that began from Ferriss and his guests have contributed into a healthier, happier, and more mindful lifestyle for me.

Along the way, I read the Tools of Titans twice, read Tribe of Mentors, listened to a shitload of his podcast episodes, listened to many more podcasts that interviewed him (the one on Cal Fussman’s podcast is my favourite), and I of course subscribed to his 5-bullet Friday. But I’ve never read this book yet, the OG of Tim Ferriss’ philosophy. Until now.

As Ferriss himself admitted in one of his many interviews, he has since evolved away from some of the ideas in this book. He said that some points even become irrelevant and obnoxiously wrong (although for the life of me, I cannot tell which ones).

But still, it’s the last (or to be exact, first) piece to complete Ferriss’ jigsaw puzzle of philosophy. It provides the big picture on everything that he believes in and his tools and methods to do them. Funny how his first book is the last one that I read but somehow can neatly summarized everything that he’s been doing for so many years. Now that’s consistency.

So what’s the book really about? In a sentence: eliminate, simplify, automate, and delegate.

It is a fun, weird, witty and very informative book, written in an unmissable Tim Ferriss signature approach: having out-of-the-box hypotheses, test them himself (the ultimate human guinea pig), and then he provides us with references for links, types of gadgets or devices used, and many other list of stuffs that work out.

The book is also full of tips and tricks with plenty of real-life stories and case studies, to assist us in so many things in life – from minimalism, to organising our day, to building a business – in a pretty detailed manner that makes the book a true guidebook for a lot of practical things.

But it is not one of those “get rich quick and retire young” kind of scam, as the title of the book might implies. But instead, it’s about making our work efficient and automated in order to free up time for us to pursue other things, such as our bucket list or simply to live a relaxed life. This, is the core premise (or the goal) of the book.

Indeed, contrary to most personal finance books, the goal of this book is not necessarily to get rich monetarily. As Ferriss remarks, “Gold is getting old. The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.” That’s right, the goal is instead to have an abundance amount of the most precious commodity: time.

One of the ideas that Ferriss advocates is to have “mini retirements” spread out over our lifetime, rather than having a big finale at the end of our lives (when we’re already old and not in our prime physical years) or to retire young (which is an unrealistic option for a lot of people). And as Ferriss shows in the book, mini retirements doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and we can still do it while still functioning and doing an efficient work.

Another idea that stands out from the book is the way Ferriss approaches any goal in low-risk attainable steps. For example, we can micro testing our product before launching to get the immediate feedback, or borrowing the puppy before we committed to adopt, or postponing our education rather than dropping out entirely (or the work equivalent for it) so that if things don’t work out we can always go back.

Because “Reality is negotiable” explains Ferriss, and “Outside of science and law, all rules can be bent or broken, and it doesn’t require being unethical.” And the book has this stretching feel about negotiating reality out of the usual norm.

The funny thing is, the book looks like a perfect precursor before the pandemic, because it is exactly what eventually happens to a lot of people, especially for the remote office thing. Had I read this earlier, I would’ve been skeptical of the feasibility of the ideas in this book. But as it turns out, it is proven to be effective during the pandemic and the ideas in the book are working out very well in this era of new normal.