Vacation season is just about here, so now is the time to start looking for a good book to read! If you’re a business owner, I highly recommend you check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.
The Gist of the Book
Your typical business owner slaves away day in and day out – giving up the here and now for the promise of something better in the future. Society has trained us to take this approach. Work hard and retire (hopefully early).
From Tim Ferris’ perspective, there are (at least) two problems with this approach:
- You’re working through the best years of your life for payday that may not come and arguably isn’t worth it
- The fact that you have to choose one or the other is a myth – Ferris believes you can have both – fun now and money later
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “yeah right. That’s how I felt too… initially. However, as I thumbed through the book prior to purchase, I had a change of heart. Whether you agree with Ferris’ worldview on retirement or not, his book offers a pretty compelling argument that by thinking and acting differently than you do today, you can produce greater results in much less time. The tips and advice Ferris provides are arguably far more realistic than say, the financial advice offered in Rich Dad Poor Dad. Extra time is NOT something many business owners have, so Ferris’ tips are particularly relevant and there are at least a dozen great business lessons to be learned from The 4-Hour Workweek.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Think differently, but only if different is better.
Ferris says, “Most people walk down the street on their legs. Does that mean I walk down the street on my hands? Do I wear my underwear outside of my pants in the name of being different?”
As a business owner, you need to challenge the status quo. You need to look at what your competition is doing and think differently. The key is, don’t think differently, or do things in a unique way, just for the sake of being different. Think and act different when it’s smarter to do so.
Early in the book, Ferris’ tells a story about how, when he was just out of college, he worked in sales for a data storage company. Instead of making calls all day, Ferris identified 8-8:30am and 6-6:30pm as the best times to call to get past the gatekeeper. By finding the leverage point, Ferris was able to book twice as many meetings as his counterparts who were told to make calls from 9-5pm.
Whether Ferris’ story is true or not doesn’t really matter. Here’s a story about thinking differently that IS true (because I was there!). Bob Perini, president of DrinkMore Water, a bottled water delivery company in Maryland, pulled out of the print Yellow Pages at a time when all of his competitors were increasing their ad sizes. The Yellow Page sales rep told Perini that he was an idiot and that he would be out of business. What the YP rep didn’t know is that Perini had data (from Blue Corona) that indicated that people were abandoning the print yellow pages in favor of the web. Perini eliminated $120,000+ in yellow page advertising and got ten times the results from $30,000 spent online.
2. If possible, organize your workday to maximize your peaks.
According to Ferris’, “interest and energy are cyclical.” A lot of business owners – especially small business owners – harbor a false belief that life has to be brutally hard. Instead of resting when they get tired, they swim against the tide. Is it worth it? If you ask Ferris, the answer is, “No!”
Instead of trying to force a square peg in a round hole, recognize that your interest and motivation for some projects will wax and wane. Your energy levels will rise and fall throughout the day. Instead of fighting your natural tendencies, do everything you can to structure your day around them – maximize them. Think about how much farther you can hit a ball when you have a tailwind!
I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a BIG believer in the power of content marketing for lead generation. There are periods when I could write five blogs a day for a month straight and not get tired or run out of ideas, but inevitably my motivation to write comes to an end. Following these spurts (which are usually more like a week long with a blog or two a day), I might go weeks or even months without the motivation to right a simple paragraph!
Instead of trying to fight through my periods of writer’s block, I write as much as I can when the mood hits me (saving the content to be published at a later date), and I delegate the task to a variety of other people when I’m busy doing other things.
If you’re super productive first thing in the morning, arrive at the office early and work with your door closed until 11am. Don’t let your staff interrupt you. Explain the situation to them and tell them to hold anything but absolute emergencies until after 11am. You’ll be amazed at what is possible when you proactively take control of your schedule – vs. spending your day reacting to one interruption after the next.
3. Focus on being productive – not busy.
Walk into any business and you’re bound to hear someone say, “I’m too busy.” But Ferris sees things a differently.
“Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions,” says Ferris.
In modern life, there are an unlimited number of ways for creating busyness. As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you’d like to do. You’ve got to pick and choose. Success is about prioritization. Ferris’ explains that being busy simply for the sake of being busy is just another form of laziness.
Instead of checking email 30 times a day, schedule times to check it and discipline yourself to sticking to your schedule. Identify 1-2 big projects or priorities and attack them first thing in the morning. Most people think they can do more than 1-2 projects per day, but very few can. Identify your priorities and stick with them. Ferris, like fellow marketing guru, Seth Godin, believe that most meetings are unnecessary. Meetings should be to make a decision – not to define a problem.
4. Remove fear by considering the absolute worst thing that can happen.
We can’t say no to so and so client because if we do, they might take their business elsewhere. We can’t publish XYZ blog post because our competitors might see it and copy us. Sound familiar? Business owners are a worried bunch, but you can’t allow the fear of what might happen to prevent you from making the right decisions for the long-term success of your business.
Practice worst case scenario thinking. What would happen if you lose that big customer? So what if a competitor copies your idea? What options would you have? Would your business survive? The reality is, most things, issues, and problems are far less serious than we make them out to be. Keep this in mind when you’re having a crisis or your business encounters a problem.
5. To make prioritization easy, take things to the extreme.
Prioritization is HARD which is why most business owners suck at it. The easiest way to learn how to prioritize is to take things to the extreme. In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferris uses the example, “if you had a heart attack and could only work two hours a day, what things would you do?” When you take things to the extreme, it becomes much easier to see the leverage points. If you had to spend your entire marketing budget on a single marketing strategy, which one would it be?
Again, whether you agree with Ferris’ worldview or not, The 4-Hour Workweek has some fantastic tips business owners can use to become effective and efficient. If you own a business, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and then apply some of the strategies. If Ferris can make millions working four hours per week, imagine what you’ll be able to do if you apply his strategies and continue working a 60 hour week!