The 4-Hour Workweek – Fact or Fiction?

There’s a saying in real estate that 20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business.

In this post, we will dissect this notion with a nod to Tim Ferriss, author of the aptly named “Four Hour Work Week” and Jason Fried, author of REWORK, which has been described as a manual for “how to do less and create more.”

Both are visionaries who believe there is a better way to run a business. Full disclosure: I am totally on board with this concept.

In the last five years, the proliferation of business technology has almost drowned us.  Five years ago there wasn’t half the tech there was right now and, if we are being completely honest, people were probably more efficient with fewer tech options. Technology is supposed to enable us to work smarter not harder but with 10 million apps to choose from, sometimes I feel like if I haven’t signed up for 50 things, I am behind the tech curve and not working as efficiently as I could be.

To borrow Fried’s phrase, we are swimming in a sea of “signal and noise” – constantly asking ourselves what do I do or not do.

Well, I am here to silence the seas for you. And I’m going to do that by expanding upon the 80/20 rule.

Let’s start from the assumption that 20 percent of your activity will result in 80 percent of your earned income.

Let’s also assume that 20 percent of your clients will account for 80 percent of time spent.

Your first step in achieving a four-hour work week is to isolate what activities comprise the 20 percent of your activity that generate revenue and focus on them first thing in morning.

I swear by an app called any.do.  It streamlines my electronic technology inputs from my inbox, calendar, social media channels and my phone by organizing my 20 percent activities into a to-do list that lives in one place. The to-do list is organized into four buckets: Today, Tomorrow, Coming Up, Someday.  I also turned off all notifications on my devices except my any.do alerts.  Now, when I see an any.do notification it means I need to go make money.

So now, I wake up and go to my any.do list, not my inbox.  I attack these items with maximum effort and focus before I tackle any other task.  This way I am focusing only on my 20 percent activities.

The second step is to identify the clients that take up a disproportionate amount of your time and –  wait for it – not work with them in the future!

You will slowly start to realize that eliminating clients that are wasting time, gives you more time. More time to focus on your 20 percent activities, which produce revenue.   Or more time to spend NOT working.  As you get further into this routine, I bet you will find that 80 percent of your other activities were absolutely useless.

Now let’s address the things beyond the 20 percent tasks – the non-income producing activities.

The way I see it, there are three buckets – things I can delegate, things I can automate or things I can outsource.

When I delegate, I assign a task to someone on my staff, a colleague or a local vendor.

When I automate, I use a system or technology like LeadRouter to send drip emails each month to clients or schedule just sold post cards through Xpressdocs upon the sale of every listing  to adopt a “set it and forget it” approach.

When I outsource, I tap into a company or service to handle a task, for instance using a virtual assistant based in another country to handle tasks such as research or report generation.

Once I had re-organized my tasks based on the 80/20 formula, I found it really hard to do anything but a 20 percent task.  It is not an understatement to say that this approach to running my business has changed my life:  I have more time.

It’s truly a gift – one that I have given myself, one not unlike the gesture of generosity a friend of mine recently made, when he gave all the groomsmen in his wedding party a pocketwatch as a gift.

Why was this so generous?  Because time is the only thing that we truly have in life.  And more time to do what we really want to do is really what we are all working for.

Chris Smith will be speaking at ERA IBC 2013 in Austin, TX March 21-24, 2013. Register here.

photo credit: plindberg via photopin cc

Chris Smith

Chris Smith is the co-founder of Curaytor, a conversation search engine for business people. Prior to Curaytor, Chris was the co-founder of the award-winning blog, Tech Savvy Agent. Chris has hosted the Agent Reboot national technology conference and has served as chief evangelist for Inman News. Chris holds degrees in Sociology and Social Sciences from Florida State University.
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