One of the popular books from the early 2000’s was The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss as it gave people hope they could escape “the rat race” of working the 9–5 life and living for the weekend. Thirteen years later, how realistic is the idea that you can go from a 40-hour workweek to a 4-hour workweek? What does a four hour work week look like in a world with most people working remotely? Is the 9–5 now 7 AM to 10 PM?
One of the things that Timothy Ferriss wasn’t aware of when he wrote that book was how mobility would change the way we work and how a global pandemic would finally make his “live anywhere” idea a reality for almost everyone who does knowledge work. The global pandemic has created a “reset” for many industries, and it forced companies to rethink how they hire, how their teams operate, and how to judge success. Is it realistic to have a four-hour workweek in 2021? Probably not, but depending on your financial needs, you can likely live anywhere, work the schedule you want to work, and have more flexibility than ever.
Time Zone Madness: A Benefit?
Remote work has shown the strains that time zones can put on an organization, but instead of looking at it as a negative, you should look at it as a positive. Instead of being frustrated that you have demands on your time all throughout your day, take a second to reframe and recognize the benefits. You aren’t required to work twelve hours a day. You don’t let others control your time; you own your time.
You may have coworkers working across multiple time zones and numerous continents, so recognize that you can work with your manager to work in a time zone that is flexible for you. If you are based in the Pacific Time zone, but happen to be an early riser, you could easily work Eastern Time hours and then be done working by 2:00 PM. If you live on the East Coast but like to have a long run in the morning and work (possibly battle) with your kids on virtual school, you could start working at 10:00 AM, skip a lunch break, and finish up by 6:00 PM. In a traditional 9–5 environment, you’d be tied to your desk at the office. In a remote work world, you can spend your lunch break catching up on laundry or grabbing a quick workout without needing to take a shower at the gym afterward (showers are still recommended, however pants are optional).
Working on Vacation: A Good Thing?
In 2007 when the book was released, there was a clear distinction between vacation and work. Now, work time and vacation time can be mixed. You can work on your holidays! Before you throw your device in frustration with the fact that you have to work on vacation, consider the following: You can travel multiple times a month without your company ever realizing you’re on vacation.
If you wanted to take a trip to Europe for two weeks, you could do that and take your laptop with you. You could work your regular work schedule while still enjoying all Europe offers without taking “vacation time.” If you want to travel to the beach for Spring Break with your family, you could easily stay up on all of your work while still enjoying the beach. You could work a couple of hours with the sunrise, enjoy the beach for a few hours, work some more during lunch, and then head back out to the beach. Once your family is asleep at night, you can finish up with your work for the day. While that sounds depressing if you only take one vacation a year, if you’re taking multiple vacations, you still get to make memories while on vacation while never missing a beat at work. Instead of your kids remembering that one vacation a year, they’ll have memories of traveling as much as your finances will allow.
Is the Four Hour Work Week a Myth?
The four-hour workweek is probably a myth in the sense that you only work four hours in a given week. What’s not a myth is that work is now what you do rather than where you are. Instead of being required to sit in a chair from the hours of 9–5 each day at a specific location, you now can work when you’re the most productive, where you enjoy being, with the flexibility to respond to the needs of your family and household.