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The book Jim recommends most often

The 4-Hour Workweek

Note: I originally wrote this review on my blog in January 2009. Read until the end to see my update.
I first came across Tim Ferriss when he was named The Most Effective Self Promoter of All Time on a Wired survey, beating out Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Jesus. This was especially interesting because I had never ever heard of him at the time. He promised to give you the key steps to quitting your job, escaping the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich.

So is this just another “get rich quick and retire” book that over-promises? No.

While it bills itself as a step-by-step guide to “luxury lifestyle design,” here is why you need to read this book. I found that it actually covers several different topics individually, and you are free to pick and choose the ones you want independently. For example:

– Quitting the workforce
While this is the main theme, and he encourages working remotely and getting down to just a handful of hours, many people are actually OK with going to the office. The problem many have though, is being at the office until 7 or 8 at night, checking their Blackberry at all hours, and never using up all their allocated vacation days every year.

– Mini-retirements
The conventional wisdom is your work your butt off for 45 years and THEN you get to retire. Ferriss argues, what fun is that? Who decided that was the rules? His plan is to take a series of mini-retirements throughout your life.

– Marketing
Ferriss shows some great examples of implementing the 80/20 rule. Is it simply rehashing a theory from an Italian economist born in 1848? Yes! And he admits it. But it’s still good to get a refresher on Pareto’s rule every once in awhile.

– Managing E-mail
This is something that just about everyone can use help with. He has some great practical advice on when to check email, using out-of-office replies, and managing information overload.

– Virtual assistants
Can you outsource all your mundane busy work to someone overseas? Tim says you can and while I haven’t tried it, it’s something I’d love to test.

– Starting an internet business to make passive income
This one intrigued me the most, especially the stories about the French Sailor shirt and the Rock Climbing Yoga DVD. He makes it sound easy, but if you’re a smart marketer, internet savvy, have ever done a Google keyword buy, and are up on the latest social media, he gives some very, very compelling examples.

So again, if you’re sick of your job and you want to live in Buenos Aires and get a check for doing nothing every month, Tim steers you in the right direction. This could be your bible. But this is also a great read to pick up simple workday efficiency tips like batching your email. The example he gives is that you don’t do your laundry every single day after one of your shirts get dirty. It would be silly. There’s too much startup time to go to the basement, run the washer, add the soap, clean the shirt, take it out, put it in the dryer, etc.

So instead you put it all in a bundle and do it once a week. He argues it’s the same thing for a project you’re working on. If you’re in the middle of a budget spreadsheet and try to multi-task by tabbing over to answer a quick email or pick up the phone, when you go back to the spreadsheet there’s a huge startup time to ramp back up again. I highly recommend it.

2012 UPDATE:

It’s been 3 full years since I read this book, and what can I say, it has been a life changer. It is by far the #1 book that I recommend to people. While I am not necessarily working only 4 hours a week, I implemented many of the projects he suggested, and it not only yielded a book deal, but allowed me to be prepared when I lost my job.

Furthermore, once I was able to work from anywhere, I actually followed his exact advice and booked a trip to Buenos Aires. Checking email, working on blog posts, approving designs via Skype, and doing consulting by day? Check. Drinking Malbec wine, eating amazing steak, and taking Tango lessons by night? Done. Truly a life-changer and worth checking out.