“The Four Hour Work Week”: My Life Management Bible

This post is part of a series in which Influencers describe the books that changed them. Follow the channel to see the full list.

The book that changed me was “The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss, which came out in 2007. The core premise of the book is how to focus your most important asset — time — on what is most important to you.

But this isn’t a time management book — it became for me a life management bible. It was published at a crucial time for me: I was finishing up my first book, “Groundswell”, and trying to figure out what life after book would be like. I enjoyed my job, and I loved working at Forrester. After eight years, though, I realized that I had changed in terms of what I wanted to do. In addition, I had young school-aged kids and we were working with one of them on the challenges of dyslexia in today’s classrooms.

Then “Four Hour” dropped into my life. Along with Dan Pink’s “Free Agent Nation”, it helped me realize that there was a different way to work, one that focused on DEAL – Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation. I thought I’d go through and explain how I applied the first two of these principles at a crucial time in my life, and how I continue to do so to this day.

Definition: The hardest step for me was realizing that I needed to leave Forrester. Recent challenges not withstanding, Forrester was an amazing place to work. But defining what I didn’t want to do was only the first step. I realized that I needed the time and space to first of all, get our family on the right footing for the coming schol year. I also knew that going to work for another company wouldn’t give me the chance to think about what I wanted to do. So I resolved to give myself a year of being an independent analyst to figure out my options.

Some scary things I had to work out:

  • Healthcare: COBRA of my existing plan would last for 18 months.
  • Living costs: I cashed in some stock and options and had about 6 months of cash on hand. I also figured out that doing one speech a month and having a one client would cover our costs. I had enough confidence that in my ability to know that I could swing that.
  • Failure: What was the worst that could happen? Probably that I couldn’t get that speech or client each month. Then I would go find a job — I’d still be employable after six months.

In the end, things worked out pretty well — Altimeter was created during that year and we’ve been going strong ever since. I continue to constanty define what is most important to me.

Elimination: Without the support of an entire company behind me, how was I going to get work done? One of Tim’s best pieces of advice was finding a virtual assistant (VA). So I tweeted that I wanted advice on how to find a VA and someone tweeted back some great advice. I then realized that she was a VA herself, interviewed her along with four other poeple, and ended up working with Denise Aday for two years.

But more importantly, I focused on what was most important to me and getting rid of everything that wasn’t important to me. Tim taught me to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

To that end, here’s also a great video that features Jason Fried from 37signals from Web 2.0 Expo that’s all about doing more with less. If you work 60 hours a week, how can you do everything in 50 hours? Having constraints on time makes you focus on what is the most important.

I had a chance to talk with Tim a few years after starting Altimeter and shared with him how important the book was to me. He kindly signed my well-worn copy of the book, writing, “Remember – don’t create a beast of your own making. Without time, income is meaningless. Have fun!” And to this day, I live those words.

PS: If you ever have the opportunity to meet the author of a book that inspired you, please tell them. Every once in a while, someone will come up to me and tell me the impact of my books on them and I can tell you, it absolutely Makes. My. Day.

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