020: Is the 4 Hour Work Week Real? | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
May 30, 2017   |   Episode #:

020: Is the 4 Hour Work Week Real?

In This Episode:

Is the 4-hour workweek real? What’s the ideal amount of time to work each week? Is Elon Musk right that we should be working 80+ hour weeks or is Tim Ferriss correct in thinking you only should work four? I’m discussing these questions along with some streamlining and time management tips so you can figure out the amount of hours that work for you. Learn how people see their work differently and how that will affect the way you work.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Your productivity actually drops after you’ve worked more than 50 hours per week

Questions I Answer

  • Is Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Workweek realistic?
  • What are the key takeaways from Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Workweek?
  • What’s the best way to be more productive?
  • How many hours should I work each week to maximize my productivity?

Actions to Take

  • Weed out unimportant and insignificant things so you can focus on what you really consider work.
  • Apply Tim Ferriss’ suggestions for productivity & time management to empower yourself and coworkers.

Key Topics in the Show

  • Learn the health costs of being overworked.

  • Understand why working more than 40 hours a week may be costing you more than you think.

  • Find out why using automations is a major key to success at work.

  • Discover how people view “work” differently and the importance in streamlining so you can work more effectively.

Resources and Links

  • Learn more about Tim Ferriss and his book.
  • Key Takeaway’s from Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week from a productivity expert:
    • Know that it is realistic to cut out many of the distractions and eliminate all that extra noise and clutter in your life.
    • Also know that it’s not really realistic to believe you’re going to be able to build something big by only working four hours a week.
    • Recognize what you consider “work.” It could be different for everyone. Ferriss believes it is only doing the things that directly bring in revenue that he would like to do less of.
Show Transcript

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton and this episode 20. Today we are going to be talking about is the four hour  work week really a concept that we can implement into our lives? I hear this question  a lot from people who have read the book “The Four Hour Work Week” and they  wonder is it really true. Can you work four hours a week and be wildly successful?  Really, I think with the question is that people are boiling it down to is what’s the  ideal amount of time to work each week? There are two thought camps out there. We  have the Tim Ferriss idea and he’s the author of “The Four Hour Work Week” and he  says work as little as possible. Then on the opposite end, we have Elon Musk who  says work like a dog. Here’s a man who’s famous for saying he regularly works 80-100  hour work weeks. What is the ideal amount of time you want to put into work? Again,  I truly believe this is personal and I feel like it really helps to look at both of these  ideas so you can figure out what works for you or what can you pull from each of  these to create an ideal amount of work that fits your life and the way that you want  to live. Let’s breakdown the thought process behind both of these tactics. Let’s start  with Elon Musk.  

For those of you who don’t know, he is widely regarded as one of the most  visionary entrepreneurs alive and working today. He’s the founder of PayPal and the  CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. In other words, this is the guy who wants to put the colony  on the planet Mars. Obviously a visionary, right? People look up to him because he is  so influential. They obviously want to use and implement his methods because he has  been so successful. Quite frankly, he is a visionary genius but he’s also a workaholic.  This is a man who’s been quoted as saying, “You should be extremely tenacious and  then just work like hell. You just have to put in 80-100 weeks every single week. If  other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work  weeks, then even if their doing the same thing, you’ll achieve in four months what it  takes them a year to achieve.” When he phrases it like that, you think you know what,  that makes a lot of sense. If I’m working two or three times harder than the other  people doing the same thing as me, I’m going to be two or three times more  successful, right? Well, it only makes sense really if you’re a computer, a robot, or  maybe a calculator. It doesn’t really work for humans.  

I agree, you need to work hard and focus on work during work hours but  spending 80-100 hours focused on work on a constant basis is not going to be  sustainable for most people. First of all, productivity has a limit. Your productivity  actually drops once you’ve worked for more than 50 hours in one week. Let me say  that again, for those of you who think you need to work long weeks, your  productivity drops after you’ve worked more than 50 hours. This is not my opinion.  This is considered a fact among productivity researchers. It’s not about the time you  put in, it’s about the quality of the work. It’s more about being effective and less  about punching in the clock hours. Working hour after hour kills your productivity  because your brain really can only focus for 90-120 minute increments. This is known  as your ultradian rhythm. Your brain has limits just like your body does. Just as you  can’t go outside and run for eight hours straight, your brain can’t do that either. It  needs to have breaks on a regular basis.  

The Harvard Business Review actually published an article sharing that  regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork does not help us.  

©Productivity Paradox Page 1 of 5

Overwork doesn’t just not help us, it doesn’t just hurt us, it hurts the organizations we  work for. That organization might be yourself if you’re an entrepreneur, it could be the  company or the corporation you work for, or it could be your family if you’re a person  who works from home. Even people who love to work, which I count myself among, I  

love working, they’re not performing at high levels once you get past a certain  productivity point. That’s not the only high cost of working these 80-100 hour work  weeks. It’s also about the harmony in your life. If you’ve been listening to this podcast  for any length of time, you know I talk a lot about harmony and having the different  areas of your life work well together. How does that work for Elon Musk? This is a  man who’s been married a couple of times, he’s been married three times to two  different women and his wives claim that he was so obsessed with his work when he  was home, his mind was constantly elsewhere. Even his children don’t get his full  attention when he’s with them, he continues to work.  

He says “I’m able to be with them and still be on email. I can be with them and  working at the same time.” But what Musk doesn’t realize is this is not true. We’ve  talked about the fact that our brains are not designed to multi-task. If you want to go  back and listen to episode 9, you’ll hear where I talk about how you cannot engage  the same section of your brain at the same time. It’s just not designed to work that  way or should I say, it’s not designed to work well that way. Even Inc Magazine who  named Elon Musk as entrepreneur of the year said that Musk frequently gets so  caught up in his multi-tasking, it sometimes takes two or three tries at his name  uttered at full volume to get a response. Even though he thinks he’s able to be with  other people, his family, his children, or even people interviewing him for an article  and still work, it’s not really ringing true for the people he’s with.  

Now let’s talk about the health costs with this as well. Keeping up a regiment  of work like that is not healthy for us. Our bodies require sleep and we’re actually  going to be talking about that in an episode later this season. How does Musk handle  this? Because he doesn’t get a lot of sleep since he’s working non-stop, he would  drink caffeinated beverages non-stop throughout his day. He drank so many  caffeinated beverages that he admits that he’s seriously started to believe that he  was losing his peripheral vision. It’s costing him parts of his health, including his  vision. I’m not here to look down on Elon Musk, I believe he is an amazing visionary  and I believe that everyone’s productivity is personal. You know that from listening all  the way back in episode zero, right? We have to make sure that we aren’t looking at  this as a realistic expectation for ourselves. I think we need to look at him as a guide  for what excessive amounts of work can look like. Yes, it can make you extremely  successful but at what cost? What’s the answer? Do we swing all the way to the other  end and work as little as possible? I think that really depends and I think that Tim  Ferriss is a great study in this thought.  

As I mentioned earlier, Tim Ferriss is the author of a book called “The Four  Hour Work Week.” I think what happens is this, people listen to that title and they  think wow, Tim Ferriss works four hours a week and yet he’s built and entire empire  upon this four hour principle. He has other books, “The Four Hour Chef”, “The Four  Hour Body”, a successful podcast, he speaks all over the world. He’s built an empire.  People believe he really only works for four hours and yet he’s done all of this. They  take that idea and run with it, that you don’t really have to work hard to build  something substantial. I believe there is some truth behind a lot of the principles in  Tim’s ideas but we’re not always exactly on the same page. Tim advocates that one  way you can work for four hours a week and live a very full life is to use automation  to your advantage. Anyone who’s heard me talk about productivity and business  

©Productivity Paradox Page 2 of 5

knows I love automations and I believe automation is key to success. That’s  something we’ll most likely talk about later on in a season focused on systems but I  look at it in a very different way than Tim references using it.  

This automation idea is really the cornerstone of his philosophy and eliminating  a lot of work and here’s what he suggests you do. He says you should become an  entrepreneur who essentially works as a middleman. Now, there’s nothing wrong with  being and entrepreneur who’s a middleman except it’s not as easy as he makes it out  to be. It relies really heavily on being able to sell the product, so high doses of  salesmanship and quite frankly, getting in the right market at the right time, so a lot  of luck. Anyone who has started a business as I have knows it’s not as simple as he  makes it sound and it’s certainly not easy enough to do with four hours a week. The  phrase passive income is one of those key terms I’m starting to hear thrown around  quite a bit in entrepreneurial and in business circles which is a subset of this idea of  Tim’s. For those of you who’ve never heard that term, passive income is another way  of saying throw a product out there in the market and make money while you sleep.  Not a lot of hard work, just a lot of big bucks. Can that really happen? Is that a real  thing?  

I’ll be honest, for me, sometimes I wake up in the morning and yes I’ve sold  products while I’ve slept but it happens because I work really hard during my waking  hours to make that happen. It doesn’t happen automatically, I didn’t flip a switch and  then all of the sudden I’m making money while I sleep. I have to market the products,  I need to nurture my tribe, I make sure I make great products that will sell. It’s not as  easy as throwing it out there and saying that you can create an industry by being a  middleman isn’t really accurate. I want you to think about that. Another point that  Tim makes is about eliminating distractions and I absolutely agree to an extent. A lot  of meetings, a lot of emails, a lot, a lot of emails, and calls are distractions and they’re  not really focused on getting you to your goals. Any efforts to streamline that should  be applauded. Tim suggests turning off notifications on your emails as well as the  auto-send and receive. He thinks you should check email twice a day and set an auto responder letting people know your policy. I think those are great suggestions. I  believe you should limit the number of times you check your email. I think it’s great to  set an auto-responder letting people know your policy.  

He also believes in batching your tasks as a good way to focus your time as it  eliminated the need for switching gears. In other words, tasks like personal errands,  customer service, financial reporting, things he calls time consumers can be done in  one fell swoop making them more efficient. Again, I completely agree with this idea. I  believe in batching your tasks. Tim advocates too for empowering others to help  make decisions especially the insignificant ones. That means setting clear boundaries  with people you work with or the people who work under you to make choices on  your behalf. I’m in full agreement with Tim on this idea. I am all about empowering  the people you work with. At work, this could be having a co-worker order office  supplies as long as they stay under a certain price point or having them know exactly  how to respond to a client inquiry. At home, this can work with the people you live  with including your children if you have them. Empower them to make decisions for  the things that don’t really matter. For example, if you have children, having a snack  shelf in the pantry where they know they’re allowed to choose their snacks so you  can focus in on other things.  

Where Tim and I part ways is when he talks about eliminating distractions so  much that you cultivate what he calls selective ignorance. Tim suggests never reading  the news, not ever, never reading the news. He says if it’s important, other people will  

©Productivity Paradox Page 3 of 5

talk about it and then you’ll find out. I don’t really agree with that. I feel like your  opinion should be your own and some of that is done by reading the news and  keeping up with current events. He also believes you should eliminate all television  except for one hour of pleasure viewing, eliminate reading books, except for one hour  of fiction, and surfing the web should be eliminated all together. I feel like this is a bit  excessive, right? That’s a lot to expect people to eliminate all TV except for one hour,  no reading of books. I’m all for eliminating distractions, but it’s also about what are  the things that you really want to do? How is it you really want to spend your time? Is  this concept of the four hour work week even realistic?  

Well, I have to say yes and no. Yes, it’s absolutely realistic to cut out many of  the distractions and eliminate all that extra noise and clutter in your life. After all,  that’s what this entire season, season two of this podcast, is all about. But it’s not  really realistic to believe you’re going to be able to build something big by only  working four hours a week. What I think is important to understand though is that  Tim Ferriss defines work as something primarily financially driven that you would like  to do less of. He’s built and empire. He loves doing what so many other people would  call work. Things like public speaking, recording videos, his podcasting. He doesn’t  really count those things in his four hour work window because, well, he doesn’t  consider them work. For him, those are the things that are fun and let me explain  what I mean. The New York Times reported that on Monday alone, Mr. Ferriss spoke at  Harvard Business School followed by an afternoon doing an interview about his book.  Then he had another talk in front of 130 students at MIT. He then stayed, hashing out  personal productivity theories over beers with graduate students at 11:00 PM. All of  this while recovering from jet lag after a flight from Japan where he taped a pilot for  a television show.  

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot more than four hours of work in that  one day alone. But to him, that’s not work. All of these other stuff, like lecturing or  blogging incessantly count in his words as evangelizing. It’s not work. Basically, Tim  lives by if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. He doesn’t count  a lot of work as, well, work. The key takeaway I really hope you get from this is that it  is possible to focus in on what’s important. Look at how Tim has created this amazing  empire on what he says is four hours of work week, right? But it’s really only four  hours of the things he doesn’t want to do, the rest of it he’s pursuing something that  he loves. It’s possible but it’s not the hours you spend, it’s the way that you spend it.  Quality always wins over quantity. We don’t have to work 80-100 hours a week like  Elon Musk to make great things happen. Lasering in and thinking you can possibly  spend fewer hours on the tasks that you call work is possible and it’s possible to find  work that you don’t consider work.  

For me, this podcast is that. I don’t consider this work because I love doing it. I  love coming up with the concept for the season, I love figuring out what we’re going  to talk about, I love recording it, I love it. This is not work. I don’t mind spending my  evening recording these episodes after the kids have gone to bed because it doesn’t  feel like work to me. What can you do to implement this? What I would recommend is  starting with episode four. If you haven’t listened to that already, that’s where we talk  about laying your foundation and figuring out your purpose. Figuring out what you  want to do and what things are important to you. Then you can really start  implementing some of the streamlining into your life, not just as work but also at  home. The episodes of this last season, season two, which would be episodes 14-18  have all been about doing just that. We’re going to continue this season to work  together to find ways to edit out the unimportant and insignificant things so you can  

©Productivity Paradox Page 4 of 5

focus on what matters most, so you can spend just a few hours each week working  on the drudgery that you consider work and the rest of your work really is focused on  the things that you love and the things that matter the most to you. That’s what I’m  most excited about.  

At the end of the day, is the four hour work week really real? I think it’s  possible. I think it’s all in how you look at work. I hope I’ve given you some food for  thought today because I really think a lot of us need to think about how much time  we ideally really want to spend on the things we consider work and how much time  

we want to spend on the other stuff. We will continue with the season working on  editing and streamlining a lot of those things that are the distractions, that are the  extra noise in your life out. I’m really excited about it because I’ve already received so  many nice emails from many of you letting me know how you’ve started streamlining  your lives and how you’ve been editing out some of those distractions and how  you’re quitting things. It’s so exciting to me and I love hearing about your journey.  Definitely feel free to send me an email or you can connect with me on social media  under the username @inkwellpress. I’m on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and  several other places. I’d love to see you there. Next week, we will be talking about  whether we should be editing out sleep in your daily schedule. I look forward to  talking to you about that next week. Until next time, happy planning. 

**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.

Tanya Dalton is considered a top female keynote speaker on the subjects of productivity, time management, goal setting and finding purpose.