“The 4-Hour WorkWeek” by Timothy Ferriss Summary

The 4-hour work week book summary

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The 4-hour work week by Timothy Ferriss book cover

“The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferris

This self-help book explains how it is possible to get out of that constant  9-5 working routine and live the lifestyle of millionaires without actually being one. 

Below is a detailed summary of the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. Why is this such a great book for all entrepreneurs or anyone looking to improve their work situation? Let’s find out…

Book Summary

The 4-hour work week by Timothy Ferriss was written purely with the intention to excite people who dream of a life with less stress, more time, and more money. 

The book explains helpful ways through tips and tricks on how to use your time effectively so you can do the things you love and enjoy by increasing your productivity but using less effort to do it.  

The 4-hour work week book gives you all the blueprints to change your way of thinking and how to manage your time.

Many dreams of having the lifestyle and travel experience only the rich millionaires can experience, but in this book Timothy explains how you can also achieve this lifestyle even though you yourself might not be a millionaire. 

Who Is Timothy Ferriss?

Timothy Ferriss is a successful American entrepreneur, author, investor, and podcaster. He graduated from Princeton University in 2000 with a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in East Asian Studies.   

The 4-hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss was published in 2007 and is his best-known book. He has since gone on to write “The 4-hour Body”, “The 4-hour Chef”, and “Tools of Titan” and his latest book “Tribe of Mentors” published in 2017. 

He is also well known for investing in over 50 companies such as Facebook, Shopify, and Uber to name a few. Timothy has also spoken at some of the world’s leading organizations including Microsoft and Google and has been a guest to keynote at events like TED. 

Chapter Overviews

Timothy uses the acronym DEAL to explain his methods in the book. Each letter in the word has a meaning and explanation. The book is sectioned into steps and in each step, there are several chapters. 

Step 1: D is for Definition

Chapter 1: Cautions and Comparisons

Timothy refers to the large number of people who spend their whole life saving for when they retire one day as “deferrers” which means to delay.

He uses this word to explain the comparison between deferrers and the New Rich which are easily recognized by their goals and ways of thinking. Below are a few examples he uses:

Deferrer: To be my own boss.
New Rich: To be the boss of others

Deferrer: I want to make a lot of money
New Rich: I want to make a lot of money with defined goals and specific reasonings

If you want to have your money automatically worth three to ten times more, you need to have more free time and location freedom. Timothy explains that being rich and living like a millionaire are two completely different things. 

To be able to multiply your money, will depend on how you handle the four W’s in your life:

  1. What you do?
  2. When you do it?
  3. Where you do it?
  4. Whom you do it with?

Chapter 2: Rules that change the rules – Everything popular is wrong

Here Timothy reminds you to always think of the 10 fundamental rules to becoming the New Rich and successful:

  1. Retirement is the worst-case scenario – Retirement planning is saving and living miserably doing something you dislike the first two-thirds of your life, to enjoy the last few years. This is not the goal.
  2. Interest and energy are cynical – Take mini-breaks (Holidays or days leave) throughout the year instead of waiting till your retirement to relax.
  3. Less is not laziness – The New Rich spend less time in the office working but have a higher productivity rate.
  4. The timing is never right – stop saying “someday” you will do something because you are waiting for the perfect moment. You will be saying “someday” right up until your death.
  5. Ask for forgiveness, not permission – People allow their emotions to control them, always apologize if you were in the wrong.
  6. Emphasize strengths, don’t fix weaknesses – Focusing on your strengths allows you to multiply your efforts instead of trying to fix your weaknesses.
  7. Things in excess become their opposite – Too much of something ends up losing its value.
  8. Money alone is not the solution – Laziness is often what prevents us from creating a life we enjoy. Saying, “If only I had more money” is never going to get you that life. 
  9. Relative income is more important than absolute income – The New Rich only look at relative income (money and time) because absolute income is just money.
  10. Distress is bad, eustress is good – The New Rich focuses on eustress (stress that helps you grow) rather than distress (stress that makes you weak). 

Chapter 3: Dodging Bullets – Fear setting and escaping paralysis

Many people fear the prospect of not knowing what will happen. They have so much fear that it prevents them from making any decisions because they are always predicting what the worst thing might happen if they made that choice. 

Timothy recommends that if this is something you battle with, write down your worst-case scenario in detail and then imagine what you could do to combat the scenario if it happened.

There are seven questions Timothy says you should ask yourself and answer to help you with your fears:

  1. What is your worst-case scenario fear?
  2. What could you do if your worst-case scenario happened?
  3. What are the internal or external positive outcomes of more probable outcomes?
  4. If you lost your job today, what would you do for financial control?
  5. What has fear prevented you from doing?
  6. What are you losing financially, emotionally, or even physically by delaying action?
  7. What are you waiting for?

Chapter 4: System Reset – being unreasonable and unambiguous

Realistic goals always seem to be the easier choice over unrealistic goals. The problem with this is that everyone usually thinks the same and therefore the competition for realistic goals is high. T

his is why so many people in the world never reach their goals and achieve success in life they are looking for. If you want low competition then reaching for unrealistic goals that no one else is thinking has less competition. 

Timothy believes that you should chase excitement which is a better synonym for happiness because it is the excitement to achieve something that keeps you motivated no matter how difficult it will be to reach your goal. 

Timothy explains that you need to replace asking yourself, “What do I want?” and “What are my goals?” and instead ask yourself one main question, “ What would excite me?” 

Set goals or what Timothy likes to call them dreamlining which is applying a timeline to goals many only think are dreams however he highlights 3 fundamental differences between dreams and goals:

  1. Change your goals from uncertain wants to specific steps
  2. Unrealistic goal setting will make them more effective
  3. Keep finding interesting activities to do to fill the space when your work is done. To be a millionaire doesn’t just require you owning things but keeping yourself immersed in interesting activities

Step 2: E is for Elimination

Chapter 5: The end of time management – Illusions and Italians

Timothy believes that time management is a trap. It’s a way of trying to keep yourself busy throughout the day all while avoiding the few important and critical actions. 

The two most important truths to keep in mind:

  1. Doing something that’s not very important excellent doesn’t make it important
  2. Needing a lot of time to do a task doesn’t make that task important

It’s all about what you are doing, rather than how you are doing it, is what makes it important. Productivity is important but needs to be applied to the right things otherwise can be useless. 

Timothy goes on to use Pareto’s Law and Parkinson’s Law to explain his theory on time management.

Pareto’s Law – you will get 80% out from putting 20% in, hence the 80/20 rule.

Parkinson’s Law – The importance of a task will increase in relation to the amount of time allocated to complete.

He explains how you can use these two Laws in your daily life. Use Pareto’s Law to identify key critical tasks that increase your income and then use Parkinson’s Law to reduce your work time and limit your projects to only what is important. 

Timothy Ferriss Quote

Chapter 6: The Low-Information Diet – Cultivating Selective Ignorance

All information that is irrelevant and unimportant should be ignored. You should always be aware of what you are reading, watching, and doing daily because everything you do should be aimed at getting closer to achieving your goals. 

3 tips on how to remove useless information in your daily life:

  1. Do a media fast for one week immediately – no magazines, audiobooks, newspapers, news websites, television, non-fiction books or even surfing the internet unnecessary. 
  2. Be in the habit of asking yourself if the information you are consuming is what you need immediately and is important
  3. Get into the habit of non finishing – not everything you begin needs to have a finish line. If you are watching a movie and halfway through you don’t find it boring, then stop watching. If something doesn’t interest you, don’t continue it unless your boss requires it.

Chapter 7: Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal

An interruption essentially is preventing something before it has finished or is completed. 

The 3 major culprits are:

  1. Time Wasters – Things that can be ignored that are wasting time
  2. Time Consumers – Tasks which are repetitive and interrupt high-level work
  3. Empowerment Failures – when someone needs to do something small but needs approval first

There are many preventative steps you can take to reduce interruptions:

  • Put systems in place that reduce contact and limit your availability 
  • Allocate tasks (payments, laundry, grocery shopping, etc) to specific times every day, week, month, or year – this prevents you from repeating the same task more than you need to
  • Give small responsibilities and tasks to your employees and regularly review the results – this eliminates a decision bottleneck for things that are not serious if not performed correctly.

Step 3: A is for Automation

Chapter 8: Outsourcing Life – Offloading the Rest and a Taste of Geoarbitrage

The most critical skill of becoming a New Rich member is remote management and communication. This is done by hiring a virtual personal assistant who gives out orders. 

However, Timothy highlights the dangers of delegation and to remember to eliminate before you delicate. Do not automate if it can be completely eliminated, subsequently don’t delegate if it can be automated. 

Time-consuming and well-defined tasks should be the only thing you delegate.

The 4 steps to follow to help you integrate with automating your life:

  1. Hire a virtual assistant – even if you feel you don’t need one
  2. Start small but think big – delegate tasks that have been on your To-Do list for the longest time or even tasks that are boring or cause you the most frustration
  3. Find the top five non-work tasks that are the most time consuming and five personal tasks for fun you can assign
  4. Scheduling and calendars will keep you in sync

Chapter 9: Income Autopilot 1 – Finding The Muse

The key component that the New Rich recommend is to own a business, not run a business. This can only be done one way – outsourcing. 

The following step by step process will help you to decide on a potential business model:

  • Choose a niche market that is not only profitable but reachable too
  • Go out and find customers in a specific market and tailor a product just for them.
  • Don’t design a product and then look for customers. 
  • Brainstorm 
  • You should be able to explain the main benefit of your product in one sentence or phrase. 
  • Your price range should be between $50-$200
  • Take less than 3-4 weeks to manufacture
  • Be able to easily fully explain the product in an online FAQ

The 3 recommended options in ascending order to obtain a good muse product are:

  1. Resell a product 
  2. License a product
  3. Create a product

Chapter 10: Autopilot 2 – Testing the Muse

The main approach of the New Rich is to not ask someone if they would buy the product but rather ask them to buy it.

Micro-testing is used to see if the consumer likes the product and wants to purchase it before manufacturing. This process shouldn’t cost more than $500 using PPC within five days. 

The basic 3 parts of the testing process are:

  1. Best – Scout your competition and try to create a more convincing offer on a 1-3 page website
  2. Test – Use PPC campaigns to test your product
  3. Divest or Invest – Manufacture the winners and cut your losses with losers

Chapter 11: Income Autopilot 3 – MBA (Management By Absence)

When you have a final product that is selling, it’s time to automate. To grow your business you need to make it scalable. 

The 3 phases of building a scalable business are as follows:

  • Phase 1: 0-50 total units of product shipped 
  • Phase 2: >10 units shipped per week
  • Phase 3: >20 units shipped per week

Step 4: L is for Liberation

Chapter 12: Disappearing Act – How to escape the office

If you are an employee wanting to escape the office, the 4-hour work week offers a few ideas on how to do this:

  1. Increase your self-investment – convincing your boss to place you in training courses would mean that the loss to the company is greater if you quit
  2. When out the office prove increased output – you can double your work output by calling in sick mid-week and work from home
  3. Prepare the quantifiable business benefit – create a list of productivity with an explanation of how much work you can get done when out of the office
  4. Propose a trial period to work from home – start at one day a week
  5. Then increase the time period you work from home – make sure the days you work from home are more productive than when you in the office and then propose you work four days a week at home

Chapter 13: Beyond Repair – Killing your job

Timothy explains that if you want to be a winner, you need to learn to quit things that aren’t working. 

4 reasons why people fear quitting:

  1. Quitting is permanent – This is not true, you can reanalyze and look for a career path in a different company later on
  2. Won’t be able to pay my bills – normally you would have another job before quitting but if not, you could live off your savings for a short period.
  3. I will lose my health insurance and retirement accounts if I quit – you can easily transfer your 401(k) to another company.
  4. It will ruin my resume – this is not true, leaving a job to do something more interesting is more attractive to employers. It shows you know what you want.

Chapter 14: Mini-Retirements – Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle

The concept of having mini-retirements is to avoid the binge holidays where you try to do a lot of things in a short 2-3 week holiday instead of taking a longer holiday and enjoying it.

This means relocating to a place for 1-6 months and then either going home for a short period or relocating to another destination.

Timothy Ferriss offers a few money-saving tips whilst traveling:

  1. Use credit cards that have a reward system for large advertising and manufacturing expenses
  2. Always set your dates for departure and returns between Tuesdays and Thursdays and only purchase your tickets either months before or last minute
  3. Consider connecting flights between internal and local airports

Chapter 15: Filling the Void – Adding life after subtracting work

Many feel that once they get to the point of being able to take those mini-retirements they have a lot more extra time. This time would have been filled with work to distract you. Timothy explains from his own experience the first thing to do is not panic.

The end goal isn’t decreased income-driven work. The few common doubts of the New Rich are:

  1. Am I doing this to be freer and live a better life or am I lazy?
  2. Did I quit the rat race because I couldn’t hack it?
  3. Is this as good as it is going to get?
  4. Am I really successful?
  5. Have I lowered my standards to be a winner?
  6. I can do anything. Why am I not happy?

Before you spend so much time stressing you need to be able to answer “yes” to the two questions below:

  1. Have I come to a decision on the meaning of each term in this question?
  2. If I can answer this question, can I act on it to improve things?

Timothy Ferriss advises that if you can’t act or define it – forget it.

The five steps many of the New Rich have used:

  1. Revisit ground zero – Do nothing
  2. Make a donation to a service organization of your choice anonymously
  3. On some of your mini-retirements, learn something along with local volunteering
  4. Revisit and reset your dream lines
  5. Depending on the outcomes of numbers 1-4, consider testing part or full-time vocations

Chapter 16: The Top 13 New Rich Mistakes

  1. Losing sight of your dreams because you have fallen for the work for work’s sake
  2. To fill the time you micromanage and email
  3. Handling problems others such as your outsourcers and co-workers can do
  4. Helping your outsources and co-workers with the same problems or non-crisis problems repeatedly 
  5. Chasing customers 
  6. Answering emails that can be answered via a FAQ or autoresponders
  7. Working in the same environment where you eat or sleep
  8. Not analyzing the 80/20 rule every two to four weeks in your business and personal life
  9. Always striving for perfection instead of being satisfied with good enough in both your business and personal life
  10. Blowing small things out of proportion just to give yourself work
  11. Making issues that are not time-sensitive or urgent to justify work
  12. Viewing one product, job, or project as do or die
  13. Ignoring the social rewards of life

The Last Chapter:

Don’t forget to enjoy life while you chase your dreams because otherwise, you will miss out on all the fun along the way. 

Enjoy the ride, not just the destination. 

With every book, there are always pros and cons, and The 4-hour work week by Timothy Ferriss is no different:

1. The 4-hour work week highlights a new way of thinking. Timothy Ferriss offers a way to change how you think about your business and personal life than from what you already do. He loves to use the term “New Rich” which doesn’t just mean rich in money but also in time or any area in your life that defines who you are.1. Whilst reading this book, keep in mind that although you can implement many of the practical steps Timothy Ferriss offers, to reach the “New Rich” that he refers to takes a lot more time and dedication from the outset. Many widely successful entrepreneurs never started that way. Many worked long hours for months or even years to build their businesses to the point where Timothy’s Guide is easily applied. 
2. Exact explanations with detailed experiences help to show a practical way of implementing the steps in this book.
3. This book can be beneficial for anyone. Timothy speaks to those who are employers or employees and there is no age requirement to learn the practical steps he offers to improve your business and personal life.
4. This book, unlike many books, is simply a guide to what could be if you tried to incorporate the lessons, practical steps, or change of habits in your business or personal life. Remember change comes with action. Simply reading the 4-hour work week and not implementing one or all of the steps to provide positive change in your life won’t work. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.When was the 4-hour work week book published? Answer: The book was published in 2007 and since then has sold more than 2.1 million copies worldwide in 40 different languages

Q. Is the book still relevant today? Answer: Yes, definitely because the practical steps Timothy Ferriss offers can be used regardless of what year you are reading the book in. 


My overall summary of “The 4-hour workweek” by Timothy Ferriss is that if you are someone looking to better your life whether it be in your business relationships as an employer or employee or your relationships with colleagues, then this book is for you.

The practical, well-explained and experienced viewpoints make this book a must-read for anyone wanting to reach new goals or climb the ladder in the business world. 

Nothing in life is easy no matter how many tips, tricks, and practical steps you read or come across. What does help you along the road to success is the dedication and willingness to move forward and change old habits that haven’t worked for you previously.

Timothy Ferriss offers these in his book. Not all of his steps might work for you but trying to implement only a few small changes will make a huge impact over time. 

One last tip when reading “The 4-hour workweek” is to be open-minded, and willing to change. The steps offered are ones you need to tailor to your specific environment or situation.

Something that works for one person in one way, might not work for another in the same way.

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