“The Four Hour Work Week” – Part 2

Part 2 – The End of Time Management

Tim starts this section off by saying “Forget all about time management”. What he is proposing, however, is meta-time management – continually appraising whether what you are doing is productive, or is there some way you can reduce the time that you are putting into tasks.

It is similar to the 4-Quadrant method that Covey proposes in 7 Habits, however subtly different. For one, Tim’s focus is on optimising for money/profit (his assumption seems to be that it is only work time you’re managing) whereas Covey’s is on doing what is consistent with your values (important to you). However Covey’s does not have the continual (lean? BUZZWORD ALERT) improvement process.

What Tim really means when he says “Forget all about time management”, is forget keeping busy, and focus on productivity. This is fair enough.

Efficiency vs Effectiveness

In some sense, Tim’s description of this is similar to Management vs Leadership. Management is the art of optimising delivery (efficiency) whereas Leadership is the art of making sure what you’re delivering meets the target (effectiveness). If you define the words this way, his paragraph makes sense. He makes a good couple of points here and it is worth quoting them:

Here are two truisms to keep in mind:

  1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
  2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.

From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.

4 Hour Work Week, p 53

Pareto’s Law:

Tim then goes on to discuss “Pareto’s Law”, that is, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Through several examples, he then applies this to time management – doing away with the 80% of effort that is relatively unrewarding.

He then discusses how he has applied this to all areas of his business (and life?). In some respects, this is the core of the 4 Hour Work Week.

Parkinson’s Law:

A complementary “law” that he discusses is Parkinson’s Law – that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.

He then has a suggestion for increasing productivity through using these two laws:

  1. Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20).
  2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law).

The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.

If you haven’t identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what’s critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished. How else could dropping off a package at UPS, setting a few appointments, and checking e-mail consume an entire 9–5 day? Don’t feel bad. I spent months jumping from one interruption to the next, feeling run by my business instead of the other way around.

4 Hour Work Week, p 58

The Low Information Diet

Tim goes after distractions in this chapter. He makes the case to practice selective ignorance – to ignore that which does not get you closer to your goals. This includes:

  • Newspapers/Magazines/Audiobooks/non-music radio
  • News websites
  • Television (except 1 hour of viewing in evenings for relaxation?)
  • Books (again, except for 1 hour reading fiction in the evenings to put you to sleep)
  • No web surfing unless totally necessary; you should have objectives for the day set out before powering on your computer

Entertainingly, he proposes that you can use this to your advantage in social situations; rather than making small talk, you can be catching up on the worlds events.

I can see where Tim is coming from here, definitely. I definitely have far too much in the way of information-distraction going on in my life; however clearly some of it is useful. So there is a balance that needs to be struck – being aware of the problem is a big help – and I will be implementing some of the recommendations here after considering them.

Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal

Here Tim groups interruptions into 3 categories and proposes solutions for each one.

1. Time Wasters – Become an Ignoramus

Unimportant – so hopefully you can learn to ignore them. Examples include email/mobile phone calls/meetings that are never that important. For email & mobile phone interruptions a solution is to check your inbox/voicemail 2x per day maximum. For meetings, he points out it is important to have an agenda and that meetings should be about decisions, not definitions.

2. Time Consumers – Batch and do not falter

Group similar things together so you’re in the mindset when addressing them… pretty straightforward but easy to forget.

3. Empowerment Failures – where someone is waiting on your permission – Rules and Readjustment

If this becomes a problem (eg, in management) Tim proposes setting rules so people can get on with dealing with problems without your permission (eg, if it costs less that $50, just do it).

Summary of Part 2

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