The Four Hour Work Week: Forget About Time Management

4-hour-work_week.jpgI have just finished listening to the audio book “The 4-Hour Work Week” which I enjoyed immensely, even as I disagreed with some of the points made by the author, Time Ferriss.

One chapter is entitled “The End of Time Management”.

He argues that one should forget all about time management!

Of course, this is more of a fancy title for a chapter than anything else, as he is mostly focused on doing the right things, rather than merely trying to maximize output or efficiency. He pooh-poohs the idea of trying to be more efficient, and looks back at his days when he was focused on working harder and harder, on God-knows-what.

But the truth is, he must have the same problem that the rest of us have, in the 11 fundamental elements. Even though he may only work 4 hours per week, he must still Capture, Empty, Schedule, Toss, etc. because he is subject to the same physical rules that we are, and has the same memory constraints that we do (or soon will, given a few more years of age).

Also, I am sure that he has more ideas than he has time to implement in this lifetime, so he must be using some method to choose between alternatives.

At the same time, he has some good tips about focusing his time and effort:

  1. If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours a day, what would you do?
  2. If you had a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what would you do?
  3. If you had a gun to your head, and had to stop doing 4/5 different time-consuming activities, what would you remove?
  4. What are the top three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive?
  5. Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
  6. Put a Post-It note to remind yourself to ask, “Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?”
  7. Do not multitask.
  8. Use Parkinson’s Law on a Macro and Micro Level.

These aren’t bad tips, and his enthusiasm for doing things differently is quite catching. I particularly like the idea of focusing on the most important 2 hours each day and week, as a way to put the most impactful tasks at the top of the mind.

However, these tips do not together make a time management system. The person who tries to implement them might be no more effective than before, because these happen to be the insights that impacted him at some point, but are unlikely to have the same impact on others.

Also on the cover of the book he has a picture of someone lying in a hammock between two palm trees. I happen to live in Jamaica, where we actually do have hammocks, and people do take naps in them from time to time, all year round. Ferriss makes the point that you can’t spend four hours a week working and the rest of the time lying around doing nothing. Life gets very boring, very quickly at that rate.

Instead, I can say that even when you own a hammock, life just does not stand still until your nap is finished. Instead, it keeps on happening and happening, and time demands keep coming at you relentlessly, long after you have logged off your computer and gone to bed.

A system that a user creates for themselves must deal with growing time demands, and no amount of hammock jockeying causes them to disappear.

So, instead of throwing away all time management systems, it’s a good idea to focus on the habits that comprise all such systems – this is essentially what Ferriss is asking his readers to do, without directly saying so.