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"The 4-Hour Workweek"--for parents

Efficiency expert Timothy Ferriss leads a high-tech, high-productivity lifestyle. Can his advice help busy parents, too?

Amy Tiemann
Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., is the author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of MojoMom.com.
Amy Tiemann
3 min read

Efficiency expert Timothy Ferriss has written The 4-Hour Workweek for an audience who wants to "escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich." Ferriss uses a combination of techniques that take advantage of globalization, smart use of technology and outsourcing, and sheer brazenness to create a self-financing lifestyle that suits him.

Now, I do not have plans to ditch my homelife and move to Buenos Aires while my virtual empire churns away making money, but I wondered, could Ferriss' strategies help me break through some of the grunt work and limited thinking that typically comes with being a parent? I found that Ferriss has plenty to say that applied to busy families looking to create a satisfying life.

Learn what to ignore

Ferriss takes the 80/20 rule farther than anyone else I have read. You are probably already familiar with the concept that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort, but Ferriss acts relentlessly on the principle. He continuously analyzes his 20% most effective actions, clients, and relationships and ditches the rest. He says, "Slow down, and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness--lazy thinking and indiscriminate action." This is revolutionary advice for overworked parents who can't seem to get off the continuous hamster wheel of work-life busyness. Too many moms take on everything that their boss, PTA president, and kids' soccer coach throws at them without ever stopping to think about what their personal priorities and most effective actions are.

Outsourcing life

Many moms in particular feel guilty if they don't do everything for their families themselves, as if personally scrubbing the toilet bowl is a sign of true love. Ferriss gives us permission to start outsourcing any task that can use some help. Through 24/7 technology and globalization, many Americans can now afford virtual assistants offered by Indian companies such as Brickwork or Your Man in India/GetFriday.

I have not tried these long-distance options yet but I have to say I am intrigued, and I'm thinking about how I could use such a service for home and business life. Many women go through life feeling that they'd have a lot more balance if only they had a wife. Maybe a virtual assistant can provide a modern solution to this age-old problem.

Choose your life and be a maverick--do what excites you

Ferriss urges us to continually evaluate whether we are getting what we want out of life. He won't be content to be constrained in someone else's idea of a 9 to 5 job. If he can help us create sustainable work models that can fit into radically fewer hours, he can help us find more time to do what we want and spend time with our families. I love it when the flexible work options that parents so desperately want are presented as brilliant business solutions rather than favors to busy moms and dads. Ferriss talks about a man who managed to continue working productively for Hewlett-Packard while spending 30 days traveling in China--without telling his boss that he was away.

Fortunately, productivity and results are becoming the name of the game, regardless of how and when the work gets done. Technology can truly allow us to cut the leashes that tether us to our desks. Ferriss tells us how to demonstrate the business benefit of remote working and make it difficult for the employer to refuse a request for it.

Finally, Ferriss' arrogance, chutzpah, and overall can-do attitude provide a fresh outlook for parents who feel constrained by the "rules" of work-life balance and the demands of what other people think we "should" be doing. Some of his ideas seem crazy, and frankly, that's part of what made his book so enjoyable. We all need to stretch our ideas of what life can offer. For those mavericks who are willing to take their careers into their own hands, Ferriss opens the doors to a wide world of possibility.