The Four Hour Work Week

It was towards mid May of 2006, that Timothy (Tim) Ferriss got in touch with GetFriday requesting for virtual assistance. He was writing this book for Random House and wanted to test out different outsourcers offering virtual assistance to experience and test the limits of outsourcing.

Now that the book “The Four Hour Work Week” is out, debuting on the Amazon top 10 and going strong at #7 at the time of writing this blog, we quite know what he set out to do. Here is a very young man who at age 29 has done an amazing variety of things in his life. Much more than what most people can’t imagine doing in a whole lifetime. There are a lot more young millionaires who probably have earned more than him at his age. But doing what he set out to do, why? Was it to write a book about it and make tons of money. Apparently no, the money is incidental.

According to Tim, he was succumbing to the more you work, the better you are – culture that is all prevalent in today’s workholic world. He wanted to make a change in the pursuit of happyness ;) and set out to really pursue what he wanted out of life without having to be a monk. Making more money doesn’t necessarily mean you get to do what you want in life.

He calls his 4 steps to achieving his goal as D-E-A-L.

Definition
Define the kind of lifestyle you want to pursue. Most of the time, that can be achieved without having to make huge sacrifices and waiting till you actually retire. His book takes a very practical approach and tells you how to do that through his life experiences.

Elimination
Once the definition is made, then you come up with the biggest obstacle to this pursuit, which is TIME. Making time and time management have been oft repeated topics with many authors and books offering cliched advice, Tim actually gets around to showing numerous practical examples that can really work for anyone. Eliminate all unproductive (that which does not make your life better) usage of time.

Automation
A large part of what you do can actually be outsourced (locally or across the globe) without the world coming to an end. In fact, the whole concept of GetFriday revolves around being able to handle anything that can be outsourced either to save you time, or for more efficiency or to give you the advantage of pooled expertise. Outsourcing ensures that you spend your precious time on the things that are really important. If you don’t have the time today, to take your son to the football game or to read bedtime stories to your little daughter, remember the day is not far when you would have all the time in the world after giving up on the rat race, while your children won’t have any. It is a different story that AJ Jacobs, Esquire Editor most funnily tried to get us to read bedtime stories for his kid son just to push and test the limits of personal outsourcing. It obviously doesn’t make good sense to outsource fatherhood to a remote organization in the long run.

Liberation
Don’t tie yourself up to a routine or an office setup. Embrace a mobile lifestyle without getting hooked onto gadgets that turn you into slaves. And it is about adding life to fill the void created by subtracting work (unproductive). It’s rather funny that 99% of people in this world would not know what to do to pursue their ideal lifestyle if they were suddenly thrown into a situation where time is not the constraint.

As an aftermath to most such books and articles, a question being raised very frequently is whether outsourcing is all about cheap labor. We would say ‘no’ to that. Yes, cost arbitrage is the basic factor on which world commerce happened (from the days of the spice trade) and still happens across the globe but to be able to sustain it, one (companies, nations, cities) needs to develop what you would call as competitive advantage in a global world.

The competitive advantage apart from cost in services like GetFriday being:
1) Ability to provide flexible work plans according to your need.
2) Ability to be available during your business hours and outside it.
3) Ability to provide a pool of expertise and knowledge that you may not get with a single assistant in your office or even by doing it yourself.
4) Ability to work on a faster learning curve as against an assistant hired locally by virtue of specialized training and being exposed to multiple work cultures and clients.

The obvious dis-advantages with services like these being:
1) Not being able to be physically present to fix you a coffee.
2) Not being able to help in the absence of clear directions and rules from the client. The assistant while being trained to handle things independantly will still be rendered rudderless if the client does not spend some quality time sharing expectations and guidelines for work in the beginning.

If you want to make more time in your life for the more important things,then get yourself a copy of the “Four Hour Work Week“.

To get updates on some great ongoing thoughts from Tim, check out his personal blog.

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