The 4-Hour Workweek

by Timothy Ferriss

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
The 4-Hour Workweek
The 4-Hour Workweek

What are the big ideas? 1. The DEAL acronym (Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation) presents a unique approach to achieving a luxury lifestyle with more t

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What are the big ideas?

  1. The DEAL acronym (Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation) presents a unique approach to achieving a luxury lifestyle with more time, income, and mobility by turning common sense upside down. This goes beyond the typical self-improvement advice of setting goals or increasing productivity.
  2. The book advocates for outsourcing tasks not only to save time but also to focus on core competencies and grow a business more effectively. This approach is distinct from traditional productivity literature, which may emphasize doing things yourself or delegating within an organization.
  3. The idea of defining your dreams using the Dreamline exercise and identifying action steps towards them is a unique approach to lifestyle design that goes beyond mere goal-setting. It encourages readers to visualize their dreams in detail and take specific actions towards achieving them.
  4. The emphasis on automating income through outsourcing, affiliate programs, or other methods is a distinctively presented strategy for achieving financial freedom and mobility, which goes beyond the typical advice of saving or working harder.
  5. The concept of taking a Comfort Challenge to build confidence and discomfort tolerance through practicing eye gazing with others is an unconventional approach to personal development that goes beyond the typical advice of building self-confidence through positive thinking or affirmations.

Chapter Summaries

Preface to the Expanded and Updated Edition


  • The 4-Hour Workweek was initially rejected by 26 out of 27 publishers.
  • Wrote the book speaking directly to friends' problems and focusing on unusual options.
  • Received a call from editor to inform that the book had hit the New York Times bestseller list.
  • The book has been sold into 35 languages and is a worldwide movement.
  • Contains over 100 pages of new content, including real-world success stories and cutting-edge technologies.
  • Lifestyle design can be applied to various groups, such as families, students, CEOs, and professional vagabonds.
  • Experiments in Lifestyle Design blog was launched alongside the book and became one of the top 1,000 blogs in the world.
  • Economic downturns provide opportunities for experimentation outside the norm.
  • Previous success stories still apply, even during economic recessions or depressions.
  • Uncommon ideas can lead to significant benefits with minimal cost.
  • Historical examples of businesses launched during economic downturns illustrate this concept.
  • Take advantage of the current economic climate for testing unconventional opportunities.

First and Foremost


  • The DEAL acronym stands for Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation, which are the steps to becoming a member of the New Rich.
  • The book will teach readers how to turn misguided common sense upside down and live a luxury lifestyle with more time, income, and mobility.
  • The goal is not to find a dream job or save for retirement, but to create freedom by automating income and eliminating unnecessary work hours.
  • The DEAL process can be used by employees or entrepreneurs to improve their lives.
  • The author encourages readers to test the concepts as an exercise in lateral thinking and not accept common sense at face value.


“$1,000,000 in the bank isn't the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”

“I will take as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.”

“Money doesn't change you; it reveals who you are when you no longer have to be nice”

Step I: D Is for Definition


  • Define your dreams using Tim Ferriss's Dreamline exercise: long-term (12 months) and short-term (6 months).
  • Calculate Target Monthly Income (TMI) based on your 6-month Dreamline.
  • Identify three steps to take action towards each of your four main dreams within the next six months, and complete the first step now.
  • Comfort Challenge: Practice eye gazing with others for two days to build confidence and discomfort tolerance.


“The goal is not to simply eliminate the bad, which does nothing more than leave you with a vacuum, but to pursue and experience the best in the world.”

“Different is better when it is more effective or more fun.”

“It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life. This is a nonstarter—nothing can justify that sacrifice.”

“The golden years become lower-middle-class life revisited. That's a bittersweet ending.”

“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.”

“By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It's the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.”

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.”

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. "Someday" is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it's important to you and you want to do it "eventually," just do it and correct course along the way.”

“Most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitate to get in the way if you're moving.”

“It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor.”

“Pacifists become militants. Freedom fighters become tyrants. Blessings become curses. Help becomes hindrance. More becomes less.”

“By using money as the scapegoat and work as our all-consuming routine, we are able to conveniently disallow ourselves to do otherwise: 'John, I'd love to talk about the gaping void I feel in my life, the hopelessness that hits me like a punch in the eye every time I start my computer in the morning, but I have so much work to do! I've got at least three hours of unimportant email to reply to before calling prospects who said 'no' yesterday. Gotta run!”

“Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of comfortable action are all examples of eustress—stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth.”

“Many a false step was made by standing still.”

“People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”

“Pure hell forces action, but anything less can be endured with enough clever rationalization.”

“To enjoy life, you don't need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren't as serious as you make them out to be.”

“If you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers to these questions, and keep in mind that thinking a lot will not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain vomiting on the page. Write and do not edit - aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer.

  1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering.
  2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
  3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probably scenarios?
  4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control?
  5. What are you putting off out of fear?
  6. What is it costing you - financially, emotionally, and physically - to postpone action?
  7. What are you waiting for?”

“I'll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

“A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. —GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists”

“It's lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for 'realistic' goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming.”

“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”

“The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.”

“The question you should be asking isn't, "What do I want?" or "What are my goals?" but "What would excite me?”

“Remember—boredom is the enemy, not some abstract "failure.”

“People are fond of using the its not what you know, its who you know adage as an excuse for inaction, as if all successful people are born with powerful friends. Nonsense.”

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ You won’t believe what you can accomplish by attempting the impossible with the courage to repeatedly fail better.”

“Life is too short to be small.”

“Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it.”

Step II: E Is for Elimination


  • Establish rules and guidelines for communication and interruptions to increase focus and productivity.
  • Batch routine tasks to eliminate setup costs and free up time for more important projects.
  • Set or request autonomous rules and guidelines to reduce decision bottlenecks and improve efficiency.
  • Use tools like Evernote, GrandCentral, and YouMail to streamline communication and avoid unwanted interruptions.
  • Schedule meetings and calls efficiently using tools like Doodle and TimeDriver.
  • Batch e-mail checking to specific times of the day to minimize distractions and improve focus.
  • Use services like Jott and Copytalk to capture thoughts and create to-dos without entering the black hole of the inbox.
  • Use Freedom to block access to the Internet during critical work hours.
  • Practice saying "no" to all requests to become more comfortable with setting boundaries and prioritizing your time.


“Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.”

“Pareto's Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs.”

“Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective - doing less - is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.”

“The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.”

“Am I being productive, or just active? Am I inventing things to do, to avoid the important? Focus on demonstrating results instead of showing dedication.”

“Poisonous people do not deserve your time. To think otherwise is masochistic.”

“But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn't making you stronger, they're making you weaker.”

“If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. —ALBERT EINSTEIN”

“Information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it.”

“Simon received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his contribution to organizational decision making: It is impossible to have perfect and complete information at any given time to make a decision.”

“Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.”

“It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.”

“The bottom line is that you only have the rights you fight for.”

Step III: A Is for Automation


  • Outsource tasks that take up your time, require expertise beyond your scope, or can be done more efficiently by someone else for a reasonable price.
  • Start small and local when outsourcing to test the waters and build a relationship with your provider.
  • Utilize online resources, software, and agencies to save time and money in areas such as design, marketing, research, and fulfillment.
  • Outsourcing can help you focus on your core competencies and grow your business more effectively.
  • Be open to the idea of hiring freelancers or contractors for specific projects or ongoing work.
  • Use virtual assistants for administrative tasks, customer service, and data entry.
  • Consider using call centers or telemarketing services for lead generation or order processing.
  • Partner with credit card processors to handle payment processing and interactions with fulfillment on your behalf.
  • Affiliate programs can help expand your reach and increase sales through a network of affiliates.
  • Discount media buying agencies can negotiate discounts in their chosen media, saving you money and hassle.
  • Online marketing and research firms can help manage PPC campaigns and optimize your online presence.
  • Infomercial producers can create high-quality commercials or infomercials for your product.
  • Retail and international product distribution companies can help get your product onto shelves in major retailers and overseas markets.
  • Celebrity brokers can help secure endorsements and spokespeople for your brand.


“Becoming a member of the NR is not just about working smarter. It's about building a system to replace yourself.”

“If you spend your time, worth $20-25 per hour, doing something that someone else will do for $10 per hour, it's simply a poor use of resources.”

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else's time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How's that for incentive to be effective and efficient?”

“Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems.”

Step IV: L Is for Liberation


  • Mistakes are unavoidable in lifestyle design.
  • Maintain your dreams and do not fall into work for work's sake.
  • Set rules and limits for outsourcers, and stick to them.
  • Outsource problems that can be handled by others.
  • Do not answer emails that will not result in a sale or that can be answered by an FAQ or auto-responder.
  • Work in a separate environment from where you live, sleep, or relax.
  • Perform regular 80/20 analysis for your business and personal life.
  • Focus on perfection for a few things and good enough for the rest.
  • Do not make small problems urgent as an excuse to work.
  • View each project or job as a stepping-stone to the next adventure.
  • Surround yourself with positive, smiling people outside of work.


“If you let pride stop you, you will hate life”

“Being able to quit things that don't work is integral to being a winner”

“Sports just happen to be excellent for avoiding foreign-language stage fright and developing lasting friendships while still sounding like Tarzan.”

The Last Chapter: An E-mail You Need to Read


  • Reflect daily if you'd want to spend your last day doing what you're about to do.
  • Recognize that life isn't a problem to solve or game to win, but rather a journey.
  • Be bold and disregard others' opinions.
  • Slow down and appreciate life's moments instead of rushing through them.
  • Realize time is short, so prioritize relationships over chores.
  • Savor the process, not just the destination.
  • Live in the present and cherish each moment.


“Slow Dance: Have you ever watched kids, On a merry-go-round? Or listened to the rain, Slapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight? Or gazed at the sun into the fading night? You better slow down. Don't dance too fast. Time is short. The music won't last. Do you run through each day, On the fly? When you ask: How are you? Do you hear the reply? When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, With the next hundred chores, Running through your head? You'd better slow down, Don't dance too fast. Time is short, The music won't last. Ever told your child we'll do it tomorrow? And in your haste, Not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch, Let a good friendship die, Cause you never had time, To call and say Hi? You'd better slow down. Don't dance so fast. Time is short. The music won't last. When you run so fast to get somewhere, You miss half the fun of getting there. When you worry and hurry through your day, It is like an unopened gift thrown away. Life is not a race. Do take it slower. Hear the music, Before the song is over.”


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