Beyond the 4-Hour Workweek

October 11, 2012  

The 4-Hour Workweek (by Tim Ferris) is the ultimate book title.  Who doesn’t want to work only 4 hours a week?*

I was hooked by the title, but disappointed by the premise.

In a nutshell, the book suggests that if you work 50 hours a week, you should outsource 46 hours, leaving only 4 hours of work for you.  He suggests that you should find people in India or the Philippines who can do your dirty work for very little money.  (I am admittedly oversimplifying, but this is not far off)

To me this is the wrong strategy.

This approach assumes that the 50 hours you are working are all worth doing.  This is rarely the case.  Why would you get someone to do the tasks that you should not be doing in the first place?

Don’t just do what you are doing today better, faster and cheaper.  Instead, question everything.

Find the 4-hours of work that will unleash massive value.  The key is leverage.  Where can you invest your time that will have the greatest impact?

When working on anything in your business, ask yourself how much value is being created.  It will typically fall into 3 categories (I know I discussed this in a previous blog entry, but some things are worth repeating):

  1. Adding no value (or even detracting from what you need to do).
  2. Adds a linear amount of value – one hour of work generates one hour of value
  3. Adds exponential value – one hour of work generates 100 hours of value

Whenever I am doing something, I ask myself, “Is this creating exponential value?”

Interestingly, in most cases, there is little that I can do on my own that will create exponential value.  Leverage (or scale) typically happens through partnerships and relationships.

I have created several partnerships with organizations who have massive distribution, and large development/deliver capabilities.  I invest a significant amount of time and money researching potential partners and exploring those relationships.  By tapping into their reach and resources, I can generate exponential impact on my business.

Here are some simple questions/actions that will help you focus your energies:

  • Who has access to the markets I want to tap into?  Partner with them.
  • Where are the people in my target market gathering? Go to them.
  • What is it that these individuals and organizations want/need most? Deliver this instead of what I have to offer.
  • Who needs something similar  to what I offer?  See if I can modify my product/service to meet this untapped need.

Generate your own questions.  Anything to shift your thinking.

The more leverage I get from a particular activity, the more time (and emotional energy) I want to invest. Because I know that the more I invest in activities with leverage, the less time I will have to invest in the long-run.

How much value does your current 50 hours of workweek generate? 50 hours?  40? 4?  Outsourcing tasks that create linear value is fine.  But what if you partnered with people on tasks that generate exponential value.  And what if the 4 hours you choose to work only focused on activities that creates exponential value?  50 hours of work could generate 5,000 hours of value.

No more linear thinking!

*  I don’t really think that I want to work only 4 hours a week.  I love the intellectual stimulation of work and the contribution I get to make.  So working that little is not really a goal for me.

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