The 4-Hour Workweek: Chapter Summary (Chapter 5: The End of Time Management)
Chapter 5 introduces the second major section of the book and the next phase of the DEAL formula: Elimination. The essential message here is that less is more. Ferriss tells us that to multiply our results, “it is not just possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory.”
The chapter gives advice for both employees and entrepreneurs, promising to increase productivity by 100 to 500% with a minimum of effort through the application of specific principles. Ferriss first addresses employees who want to remain employees for now but who want increased pay along with a remote working arrangement so that they can reduce their hours without interference. The idea is to increase personal value by maximizing productivity, thereby gaining the leverage to negotiate an ideal situation. For these people, the DEAL formula becomes DELA, placing Liberation from the office environment—with its emphasis on staying busy—before Automation. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, sticks to the regular DEAL formula, the goal being simply to maximize income with a minimum of effort in order to spend time on dreamlining goals.
Beyond that distinction, the basic principles for maximizing effort and saving both time and aggravation are the same. They are as follows:
Effectiveness Versus Efficiency
Ferriss makes a distinction between effectiveness and efficiency. He defines effectiveness as what produces maximum results with a minimum of time, effort, and resources. Efficiency, on the other hand, is defined as the ability to accomplish a given task in a streamlined manner without necessarily bothering to question the inherent worth of the task relative to the results that it produces. Ferriss gives the example of the door-to-door salesman who performs his job perfectly and without waste but who could achieve much more with less effort by using e-mail sales techniques instead.
Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 Principle
Pareto was a mid-nineteenth to early twentieth-century Italian economist who noticed that 80% of the results were being produced by 20% of the causes. Those causes can refer to time, effort, people, resources, or activity and can be applied to any phenomenon or area of endeavor. They can also refer to either positive or negative results. The key, therefore, is to discover which 20% of causes is producing 80% of both our problems and the positive results we’re achieving and then to eliminate the former while fostering the latter. The result will be dramatically increased productivity with a fraction of the effort, cost, and time.
In evaluating his own work and personal lifestyle, Ferriss applied Pareto’s law to all aspects, “from my friends to customers and advertising to relaxation activities,” and he encourages us to do the same with everything from our health and relationships to work and money. In fact, Pareto himself noticed the operation of this law in both the production and distribution of the greater economic wealth as well as the smaller economy of his garden, where 20% of the peapods produced 80% of the peas.
Ferriss notes that the ratio of causes to results can be even more dramatic, sometimes as divergent as 99 versus 1%; but the minimum desirable ratio is 80/20, confirming that the key to success is to focus on quality and effectiveness rather than on quantity. He acknowledges that in order to figure out which factors in our lives are beneficial and which are detrimental, we need to go through a trial and sorting time—as he so colorfully puts it: “Throw it all up on the wall and see what sticks.” But he also contends that this period should not take more than one or two months, which brings us to the next point …
“… time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available.”
“He … began to focus on demonstrating results instead of showing dedication.”
Parkinson’s Law is about cutting the fat from our work habits by only allowing enough time for the essentials. Ferriss cites the time when he was due to hand in a final class paper worth 25% of his grade. The company he had chosen to interview copped out on him at the last minute for confidentiality reasons, and he had only a day left before he had to hand it in. Instead of giving him the requested extension, his professor, Ed Zschau, suggested that the situation presented an opportunity to demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset and that Ferriss should meet the deadline regardless. Ferriss met the challenge: he found and interviewed a new prospect and then stayed up all night finishing what would be a thirty-page paper. He handed it in at literally the last minute and received an A, claiming it was the best paper he had written in years.
Parkinson’s and Pareto’s Laws work best in conjunction with each other since one feeds the other: focusing on the most important issues minimizes work time, while setting short time frames forces us to focus on the basics. The final “Questions and Actions” section of this chapter asks a lot of hard questions that push us to really take the Pareto and Parkinson’s methods of time management seriously. We’re asked to not only question our work habits and remove the fat but to eliminate negative and toxic relationships and to focus on the positive. As Ferriss says earlier in the book, it’s not about creating free time but about using time wisely.