Tiffany Joy Yamut Author
UpViral Team
February 27, 2017

The 4 hour workweek experiment (the good, bad & ugly)

The 4 hour workweek experiment (the good, bad & ugly)

In episode #16, Wilco talks about a book that pretty much all of you probably read and definitely have heard of. It is The Four Hour Work Week from Tim Ferriss, does it work? Is it possible to run an online business in four hours a week?



Tim Ferris

Four Hour Work Week

Tools of Titans

Rescue Time



Microsoft Word

Google Docs




Hey, there. It's Wilco de Kreij here and I'm excited because I am back because I didn't record an episode for the last couple of weeks, but for a good reason, because over the last couple of weeks, my wife and I we've been traveling through Ecuador. We've been traveling through the mainland as well as through the Galapagos Islands, which was awesome. We totally had a blast. We met a lot of people, we explored a new culture, because that's usually what we try to do at least once or twice a year. For example, last year we went to the Philippines as well as to South Africa. This year we started off in Ecuador, and like I said, it was awesome.

Now, although there's a lot of good stuff behind that, you get to really understand how a new culture thinks and does their thing and all of that, which in my experience is really beneficial for basically understanding how to do marketing right, because you get to have a better understanding of how people think, but that's not what I want to talk about today.

Today I want to talk about a book that pretty much all of you probably read and definitely have heard of. I personally read it I think four or five times, which is The Four-Hour Work Week from Tim Ferriss. I actually just ordered his book yesterday, his new book, The Tools of Titans. I haven't started reading it yet, but I'm excited to dive in. Anyway, so the Four-Hour Work Week, and probably a lot of you, like everybody might have an opinion about it, right? Is it true? Is it not true? Does it work? Is it possible to run an online business in four hours a week?

Now, I just logged into my Rescue Time statistics. In case you don't know, Rescue Time is a tool that you can install in your computer and it automatically keeps track of what you do, so how much time do you spend? Not just how much time you spent on your computer, but it even shows you, for example, you spent X amount of time on Facebook or maybe X amount of time on Gmail, maybe X amount of time on whatever it is that you have open on your computer and it automatically gives you an indication of how productive you are. Like Facebook, not productive. If you're, for example, in Microsoft Word, or whatever, it would think, "Hey, that's actually productive," so it would give you a good glimpse of whether or not you are productive. You can actually break down your statistics on a week-by-week basis, day-by-day basis, et cetera.

Now, in this case, what I just did is actually logged in to see how many hours I actually spent during my trip, because like I said, I've been away for just over three weeks, and I can see exactly how much time my laptop was on. Like if my laptop was on, that mostly meant I was working. Sometimes I maybe checked Facebook for personal gain as well, but most of the time it was for work. Altogether, I spent 15 hours on my laptop over this little bit more than three weeks. Like I said, part of that would be for personal gain, but 15 hours in just over three weeks comes down to five hours a week minus the Facebook time, it will probably like four or five hours a week for a three-week period.

Now, in this episode I want to talk about that. I want to talk about how do I make it happen. You might be thinking, "That's easy," you just cut back your time, three, four hours a week or five hours a week. Don't forget that right now in our business, we have got 15, 16 people working full time, we have over 15,000 customers. Right before we left we just finished a major new project launch of ConnectExplore, so we've got a lot of new customers coming in, so obviously it's not easy at all to be offline that much.

I want to talk about what I need to make happen beforehand and what I actually did focus on those five hours. If I could cut back all my time, usually I work 50 hours a week, 50 to 60 hours a week, roughly I guess. What if I needed to cut that back to just a couple of hours a week? What would I focus on? That's what I experienced in those couple of weeks and whether it was successful, whether it's actually possible to run the four or five hour work week. The reason why I want to do this podcast right now is because everyone has been hearing this concept for years and I never really shared my opinion on it because I think you should actually experience it first. Even though I already experienced it a couple times before, because, like I said, we usually do these kind of trips a couple times a year, but I figure this is a good time to talk about it.

First things first, like I said before, it's not easy to cut back your time to four or five hours a week, especially if you've got so many people demanding your attention. I'm assuming that you know it as well. The second you open your inbox it's like peeew, everybody wants your attention. Suddenly you're not working on your own to-do list, but you're working on someone else's to-do list. Right now, imagine that happening on email, on the support desk, in your team, like people inside of the team are asking questions and all of that as well as on Facebook. Everywhere people are asking for my time. If I were to answer to all of that that would already be a good chunk of my normal week let alone if I would just be working a couple hours a week.

I've been thinking about like, "How do I get to the point from spending 50, 60 hours a week to a couple hours a week and that would be okay?" Now, there's a couple of steps that I need to take in order to make that possible. This is for you if you want to do the same thing, especially if you already have a business with people involved. Now the first step is obviously having the right people on board. If there is nobody on your team who could take over your responsibility or your tasks, then you're screwed, maybe. To be honest, the first time I did this, the first time I tried to hand over my task, I didn't think I had the right team. I thought, "This, is a special task. Only I can do it." I sort of felt like, "Only I can actually do what I do." It's just crazy to think that, but sometimes as an entrepreneur, we get to believe that we are sort of like these supermen and everything we do only we can do, which is crazy to think.

What I started to do first is I started accepting that my people are the right people and I started empowering them to do the things that I was normally doing. The way I did it, first of all, I have the right people and believe that they are the right people, and then write down the responsibilities fully. You shouldn't just say to a team of people, to multiple people, like, "Hey, you should all do this," because if let's say you're talking to two people at the same time, and you're saying to both of them, "Hey, you should take responsibility of this or that, or a certain task," then they'll be like, "Oh, maybe the other person does it," like they don't really feel the responsibility. You should hand over your responsibilities to a specific person in your team. For every single task, you want to make sure you are the person who is responsible. Even if there's multiple people working on it, one person should be responsible.

Now, what else I did, is for a lot of the tasks that I used to be doing, I started writing out all the procedures, so instead of just explaining it on a Skype call, for example, and explaining them how to do it, I actually wrote it all down. The reason for that is not because that's faster, because it's actually a lot slower and gives you a lot more stuff to prepare, but once you write it all down, it's so much easier to hand over to people to, even if later on let's say you're going away, you're writing down exactly what you're doing so you can explain it to someone else.

What happens if that person goes away? What happens if that person gets sick? What happens if, whatever happens, like the shit hits the fan, then if you have a written guide on exactly what needs to do, like step one, do this, step two, do that, step three, do that, then all of a sudden it becomes so much easier to just hand it off to another person, for example, and by doing that, you starting building up this whole data base of written procedures which basically tells people how to run your business, and it might seem a bit vague, but once you start writing down what you actually do on a notepad and then you start breaking it up in step-by-step plans, you'll notice that there's a lot of the things that you do are actually repetitive or at least can be explained if you really take effort into explaining it, right?

Then, secondly, like I said, you should make sure that everyone has their own responsibility, but for some critical things, you want to make sure you have back-ups as well. Simple example, what happens if your server goes down? You might be normally the one that starts to make phone calls and whatnot to the right people who might be able to help out. Now, that's obviously not going to cut it if you are traveling or if you are not available, so what we do is we have Pingdom. Pingdom is a service, It's a service that checks all our servers every 60 seconds whenever something goes down it sends a text message to me or to multiple people.

In this case, I made sure that one person is the key person who's responsible for that. Whenever something goes down, multiple people get a text, but he's the key person responsible. However, I also have a back-up person. He's also responsible, so if the first person doesn't respond, immediately the second person takes over, so even if I'm not there there's two other people who are taking care of that, just to make sure, to be fully safe. Obviously, you'll be the best to understand and know which staffs in your business are most critical to run your business, but it's just good to have back-ups on place.

Just to go back a couple steps, every single time before I head on a trip, before I go traveling, before I know I am going to be away for a certain amount of time, I'm going to be away for a certain amount of time, I'm going to be off-line during the days. I will literally not be online for various times, then this is exactly what I do. I start writing down all the things that I do. I explain them as clearly as I can in a written format. We have them all in one system. You can, for example, use Google Docs, so that everyone on the team can actually access them.

We have clear responsibilities and for the most critical tasks, we have a back-up person as well, so there's two persons actually responsible in case the first one, something's up. That way helps a lot and obviously, what's really important here is that your team should be confident enough that they can handle it, so it's always good to have a trial error. Usually the last week before I head off I pretend that I'm not there. I'm just there to help them out, so that if they still have questions they can still ask me. I think that's really critical, or at least that makes me feel more at ease when I'm actually away.

All right. That's a long time talking about all of that, so what did I actually do? Once I was actually away, what was I focusing on. In our business, we have a lot of things I could be focusing on, right? We have, for example, Facebook ads, we have email marketing, we have relationships with affiliates, we have doing webinars, we have deciding what new features we build in our tools, testing our tools, coming up with new ideas for our tools, we have the customer support, we have answering emails. We have so much stuff that I could actually be doing. Now, what did I decide to do now that I had to focus or decide, basically cut back my week from 50, 60 hours a week to just couple hours a week.

I'm going to be silent for one second. Let me ask you, right now, answer these. What do you think from all of the things, what do you think I was focusing on most? Was it trying to grow the business? Was it better marketing, because I'm a marketer, right? What do you think it was? Well, actually I just logged into my stats, like I said, and I can actually see that more than 80% of my time, I actually spent on ... da doo, da doo, da doo ... customer tickets.

That's right. I know, I know, I know. I am the CEO in viral and normally a CEO wouldn't be doing the support desk themselves and I get that, because to be honest, it's not my favorite part of the job, but I do think it's the most important one, and I just want to make sure everything is good. I'm a bit of a control freak, and as it happened, like I said before, right before we left we had a major launch and it actually went a lot better than I initially expected, which means we added a couple thousand new customers within a couple days, and obviously, that also resulted in more support tickets and my team, they were doing their very best, but I just noticed that sometimes the reply line actually went up. Normally we try to reply the exact same day, but I noticed that because of the many tickets and me being away that sometimes the response time went up and that, to me, is just not acceptable, so I mainly focused on answering our customer questions.

I didn't focus on growing the business further, I didn't focus on marketing, and I didn't focus on my affiliates, none of that. I just focused on customer support. I actually think, even though it's not the most fun part, but it was actually a good decision, because in the end, it's always about your customer. At least that's the way I think.

Basically, if we're going to look at this as an experiment, like the good and the bad, what happens if you cut back your time to four or five hours. Is that a good or a bad thing? I know a good thing about all of this is that every single time I do this, and I think I mentioned this in one of the earlier episodes as well. Every time I'm away for a while, I hand off certain tasks to my team that initially I was doing myself and once I'm back after the three, four week period, I realize that my team is actually doing a fine job and I don't need to take back that responsibility, so before I left, I had the responsibility, I described how it should be done, they did it for a couple weeks, when I came back I'm like, "All right, cool. You guys keep on doing that and that gives me the opportunity to focus on new things again," so take on new responsibilities or future or new growth opportunities or whatnot.

That's the good side. The bad side is, or not really bad, but if we're going to look at this as an experiment, I did nothing to grow the business. We just basically maintained it, which means that for a short period of time, sure, this could work. For a short period of time I could manage or I could sort of get away with a couple hours of work to just keep a tab on anything, answer any questions of our customers, as well as answering the questions of our team, obviously. I forgot to mention that before, but obviously everyday I'm on Slack, which is our team communication, so whenever they have some question, I answer them right away, so they at least know how to continue if there's anything, even though they didn't ask me that much, because they were all well-prepared, but those are the two main things.

But, like I said, this is not something I could do permanently, because that amount of time, I will not be able to grow the business. Now, sure, if it would be my life's mission to only work four or five hours a week, I'm actually pretty convinced that I could manage to do that, but the business would suffer in a big way. To be honest, I'm someone who's pretty much goal oriented, so I want to reach at a sky sort of thing. You can have it both ways. You can have the biggest business in the world and triple your business every year, whatever, and expect to only work a couple hours a week. With the power of internet, you could work a couple hours a week and make a decent living, but it's not like you're going to aim for the moon if you're doing that. Personally, I prefer to not just go for a four-hour week, but I prefer to focus my business and drive for growth.

However, I highly, and this is something that I really, really encourage all of you if you're listening right now, I highly recommend to take regular breaks. It's so easy to not do that. Every single time I book a trip, every single time I book my flights to be away for a month, usually in the past I was actually three, four, five, sometimes multiple times even, six-month trips. I'm not doing that anymore. Every single time I book a one-month trip, it scares the beep out of me. I'm always scared when I book it, but I do it because I know that once I'm away, I love it, but my initial response is that, "No, no. I should be focusing. I miss all these opportunities and things could go wrong," and blah, blah, blah. All these kind of excuses which are all making it easy to stay at home.

The truth is, yes, I am missing opportunities when I'm away and yes, things will go wrong and yes, some of my team members might make a mistake that I probably wouldn't have made myself, and you know what? That's fine. If we don't allow ourselves to make mistakes or we don't allow ourselves to miss an opportunity, then we're trapped. We're trapped in our business and that's it, right? At the end of the day, we don't live to make our business or we don't live to be an entrepreneur. I love what I do. I wouldn't trade it for the world. When I wake up, it's the first thing I think about. When I go to bed, it's the last thing I think about. I'm always thinking about my business and how to grow it. I'm passionate about it. I absolutely, absolutely, absolutely love it, but why wouldn't we also focus on things that we love outside of that?

For me, personally, it's traveling and just be away. For example, last week, we were traveling on the Galapagos Islands for a couple days and we had a boat cruise, and during that time I wasn't able to be online at all, not at all, even if I wanted to. We didn't have any connection. We were in the middle of nowhere and it's just so good to be away from everything and to be not checking Facebook, not checking your email, not checking your stats everyday. It's just some kind of freedom in your mind that just gives you a whole lot of energy, so if you're listening right now, do this. Book a trip, go away, take your time off, because I promise you it will give you so much new energy and so many new ideas that you'll easily make that back.

That's pretty much it. That's pretty much the episode I wanted to talk about. I know this is probably not the most organized or a well-organized episode that you've heard, but I think it will still have value with you, so just to summarize, so if you want to get away, make sure you prepare everything well. Write down all your responsibilities for your team. Make sure that everyone knows who is responsible for what and they have step-by-step instructions and also have back-ups in place for the most important things in your business and always have a trial run by pretending that you're not there for, for example, a week or two weeks, where you're basically not allowed to do anything what you're normally focused on.

All your team should all be focusing on all those things and obviously they can ask you questions, but at least they'll be able to ask their questions while you are still there. Maybe even most important, and didn't even mention that, as clearly before, accept that things will go wrong. I think that that's the most important part, because if you can't accept that then, like I said,  you're stuck. Do that, book a trip, go away, and I'll see you all or listen to you all, or talk to you all, that's the best way to say it, I'll talk to you all in the next episode. Cheers. Bye bye.

"If we don't allow ourselves to make mistakes or we don't allow ourselves to miss an opportunity, then we're trapped."

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