Save Me From the 4-Hour Work Week Nightmare

Paul Brown listed some good time management tips for entrepreneurs yesterday in the New York Times. His list includes a discussion of Timothy Ferriss’ hugely successful book, the 4-Hour Work Week.

The 4-Hour Workweek
by Timothy Ferriss

Read more about this book…

It’s a good list, worth reading. But it leads me in a related direction.

I’m just a single data point, but I’m pretty sure I’d hate a 4-hour work week. I had the privilege of hearing Timothy Ferriss at a conference last year. He’s impressive. He’s a very good presenter. When he explained it himself, with good slides and sharp humor, his basic idea seemed to make a lot of sense. Farm out the small stuff. Hire somebody else to answer your emails. Work on the big stuff.

I’d hate the 4-hour work week because I love my work. And I think that thought is related to the core of at least one branch of entrepreneurship: the escape from boredom.

My older brother has accused me of a “one-size-life-fits-all” philosophy, but I feel that it’s useful to share that the “escape from boredom” school of entrepreneurship has worked for me. Palo Alto Software was built on the foundation of doing something (business planning) that I like to do. Sure, there were lots of bad days (when cash flow was scary, every day was a bad day) but over the long term it was about doing what I wanted to do.  And, as it grew, surrounding myself with people who liked doing what they were doing.

Not all entrepreneurs subscribe to this philosophy. It’s really hard to classify entrepreneurs. Some pursue nothing but money, more often it’s following a dream, proving something, doing your own thing; sometimes it’s simply about working alone.

So not to assume that one size fits all, maybe I’m just lucky. My work is about writing, and starting companies, and business planning, and entrepreneurship. Sometimes it’s teaching a university class, which I’m doing this Spring quarter twice a week. Sometimes it’s doing a seminar, or webinar, and lots of times it’s keeping up with things on this blog. Today it’s the first day of the Starting a Business class I teach every Spring quarter at the University of Oregon. Tonight I’ll be helping with the Eugene Oregon Smart-ups conference, reviewing four new businesses over dinner. Tomorrow I’m off to Houston to be one of the judges at the Rice University Business Plan Competition. Next week I’ll be a judge at the University of Oregon intercollegiate New Venture Championship.

And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And this idea isn’t being fair to the good time management tips this post started with, or the good sense in Timothy Ferriss’ book. Still, I face a fresh new class today, and one of the most important things in starting a business is matching up what you have to do with what you like to do.


  • Tim Berry says:

    Ben, I think you're absolutely right. 30-some years in business, and I'm still not delegating all that well. Sigh ….


  • Ben says:

    Tim, I think you missed the point of the book. As I see it, 4HWW is about the goal of reducing things that you don't care about, except for the fact that you need to do them for the money, to no more than four hours of your week.

    You're already filling your week with what you "wouldn't miss for the world." I think Tim Ferriss would call you a success! He'd probably also push you to get anything that you might "miss for the world" down to only four hours.

    Perhaps for you that expendable use of time might be putting reports into the right file cabinet, or dealing with airport security? If so, could you have someone else put away the papers in the right place, and ship your suitcase to your hotel by FedEx, so that you have more of your life free to do even more joyous interaction with your fellow entrepreneurs?

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