Entrepreneurship is a valuable tool, a personality trait that can either extend a person’s typical work week or give them extra breaks and time off when they play their cards right. By being an entrepreneur, a person will be more in control of how, when, and where they will work, and where that work will take them in the end.
Perhaps one of the most desirable aspects of entrepreneurial work is the possibility of decreasing weekly work hours to have more time for family and other more desirable activities. One concept that has arisen from this innate desire is the 4-hour* work week (*we’ll stick with the less grammatically correct “4-hour” over “four-hour” for continuity with the to-be-mentioned book title from which this concept originated).
A 4-hour work week—“Sign me up!” you say, right?
The basic premise of a 4-hour work week is the ability to create a low-maintenance, automated business that generates enough income to allow the owner to live comfortably and provide for whatever their ideal lifestyle might be. The underlying goal isn’t necessarily to implement a work week that is exactly four hours long, but rather to increase per-hour output by at least 10 times. The more a person can do efficiently and effectively in less time, the closer they approach the 4-hour work week ideal.
What might be most astonishing is that Tim Ferriss, the author of the 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, himself does not work four hours per week, but rather 60 hours or more, and that is a light estimate while he is launching a new best-selling book. In actuality, the reason he titled the book that way was motivated purely by marketing purposes, mainly because it garnered more clicks in a Google Adwords test. He knew such a title would inevitably sell more books out of avid curiosity and the hope for such a future shared by so many people.
With this in mind, it now begs the question—is the 4-hour work week really possible?
What the “Work” in 4-hour Work Week Really Means
Work can be defined in a number of ways. How a person ends up defining work will help them figure out exactly what a 4-hour work week means to them.
Work can be anything that someone either would like to do less of or that they do solely for their financial benefit. This is the definition given by Ferriss, and it certainly is a good one to work with. The opposite of work therefore would be doing something that you love and want to do more of; something that is not necessarily motivated by its financial benefits.
With that definition of work in mind, does what you’re doing invoke fear, nervousness or dread? If the activity seems like it would normally be considered work but doesn’t invoke any of these negative feelings, then is it really work? If a task is exciting and meaningful, is it really work in the first place? Or take those who are doing something they love, even if it is work-related, and are getting paid for it. Doesn’t that make doing that activity that much better?
In the end, the way a person defines work has to be determined by them and them alone. Without a clear definition, they’ll never really be able to honestly evaluate their time to discern whether or not they are getting enough fulfilment out of their life.
The Amount of Work It Takes to Get There
What many people don’t realize is the sheer amount of time and effort it takes to ever even begin to approach a possibility like a 4-hour work week. Nobody should expect to be able to go from their current situation to such an ideal in no time flat with little to no work involved. And this amount of work alone might scare off some of those who would like to accomplish this goal.
Like Tim Ferriss, a person might find themselves working 60+ hour work weeks, or at least more than the standard 40 a person works in a traditional job setting. Early mornings, long nights, and weekends could become a thing of the present, and sacrifices will have to be made.
But what people are eventually learning about and working up to is the ability to consolidate time. That might be by becoming more efficient, delegating tasks to other people that are hired, or some other way that reduces the amount of time put into getting the most out of each minute of the day. Figuring out the best way to do this over time will put people in the best position for accomplishing something akin to a 4-hour work week.
To continue to learn and grow as both a business and a person will always take a lot of time and effort, and it really never ends. But if it’s what you want to do, you learn to love it—even if it involves something that might be deemed work-related. That’s what makes work seem less and less like work.
The Bottom Line
The exact number of hours a person works is fairly arbitrary. What matters is that people are doing less of what they deem to be “work” and more of what they love to do with their time. Whether that’s traveling, spending time with family, investing time into a hobby, or anything else that makes people feel happy and fulfilled, there’s no substitute for getting the chance to spend time with a passion.
However, it is important to remember that what some people might consider work is simultaneously something others do love—work that is a passion project or that fulfills another person’s interests. This is where a personal definition of work comes back in, as each person considers whether or not their work week is approaching a figure like four hours or something like it, whatever is appropriate for their individual life.
If what one deems to be work is what another loves to do, then is it really work for that second person? And does the arbitrary number of hours ‘worked’ each week really matter?
The bottom line is that downgrading a work week to a mere four hours or so isn’t necessarily realistic or even desirable. But what people can do is to put themselves on a path to explore their passion and turn work into something they actually like to do. This means that everything that falls under the concept of “work,” or something one doesn’t want to do, actually can be reduced to a minimal amount of time.
Lifestyle design is perhaps the most important idea to take away from the concept of a 4-hour work week. What Ferriss wants readers to do is to find a way to craft their lifestyle to make their job more fulfilling of purpose and desires in life. This may be easier said than done, and it will take a lot of time and hard work to get there, but at least that concept in and of itself is a possible life goal.