The 4-hour Workweek Series: How to Automate Your Income, or Write Instructions to be Followed

As you know, we have been reviewing Tim Ferriss’s 4-hour Workweek and the personal transformation process: DEAL. Up to now we have covered Definition and Elimination, and today we are going to narrow in on Automate – the hardest chapter to implement.

I started off by saying that implementing the concepts in Automate is the hardest, and I do believe that. We as human beings are so engrossed by the works of our hands, it is difficult (albeit a sin against the corporate gods) to pay others to do our work. As a business owner, that’s par for the course. But for an employee, there is that fear that you could get caught, or
shunned for not doing the work you are paid to have completed. Emphasis on ‘paid to have completed’.

But before we really dig into the meat and potatoes of your income automation architecture, I need you to do something. I need you to do an exercise and this single exercise will change everything for you as we move forward in the DEAL process.

Write Instructions to be Followed

Let’s say that you have a house full of plants and so you have to water those plants every once in a while. When you go about watering the plants this next time, what I need you to do is write the instructions for how to water the plants. This process is not only clarifying for you, but it also allows you to communicate with others how you do the things you do. And you don’t have to only do it for the plants, how about your pet snake? Or your laundry? Or how about… you get the idea.

Take the day, or the next couple of days, to write out instructions for everything you do around the house.

Happy hunting.

The 4-hour Workweek Series: How to Eliminate Information and Interruption Overload

Up until know, I have been exceptionally liberal in my approach to plagiarizing summarizing Tim Ferris’s work. Most of what he discusses, albeit difficult to implement, is easy to understand. The key for my readers to gather is that up to this point if you haven’t clearly defined you goals/objectives/values and your nightmares and dreams, do so. Then come back to this point because we are now going to begin the process to ELIMINATE the dross.

I have already introduced you to 80/20 and Parkinson’s law. And if you have followed along so far, you know which 80% of your life to eliminate and which 20% to elevate for bench-marking time requirements. But neither 80/20 and Parkinson’s Law shows you how to ELIMINATE, they only show you what you might want to Eliminate.

To understand how to ELIMINATE, we are going to plagarize analyze Tim Ferriss’s core message for how to eliminate. Essentially, what you are going to do is “develop an uncanny ability to be selectively ignorant.” Or in other-words, unless it is either your dream or the nightmare you must ELIMINATE by my massive action or ignore it.

This idea is so freaking important that I am going to write it again in a way that my readers will unabashedly understand. If what has your attention is essential to your wildest dreams or forestalling your darkest nightmares: DO IT! Otherwise, ignore it.

I can almost hear you sniveling on the other-side of these words, “But but but… Alixander, I… I can’t simply ignore stuff.”

Yes, my dear reader, yes you can. And as if Tim Ferriss were Gawain the Green Knight, his words are going to cut off the two heads of the DREAM KILLING dragon: Information and Interruption.


You, my dear reader, live in the perpetual flow of information that has become of our age. And this information is coming into your life seemingly from everywhere and it is a DREAMKILLER. If you intend to join the mobile elite and to ascend, as it were, into the New Rich, you need to eliminate most (if not all) sources of information in your life. That’s right: Books, TV, newspapers, magazines, social media apps, video games, blogs, websites, text messages, phone calls, emails, slack messages and so many more sources.

Don’t panic.

There is a reason for why Tim Ferriss is advising this. You and I both know that you could sit on your heinie and consume information all day long. And you know that nearly all the information that you consumed could be categorized with one or more of the following, “time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside your influence.” If the information was time-sensitive, you wouldn’t sit on your hands for hours would you? If the information was positive, do you really need 8 hours of it? If the information is irrelevant to your dreams/nightmares, what cock-a-mammy excuse are you making to prop up its importance in your life? And if you really can influence the information that you are receiving by taking action, why haven’t you?

I’ll give you a little hint: 80% of why anyone consumes negative, irrelevant, time-consuming, and uninfluencable information is on account of the gaping void that comes into view when not pursuing dreams.

“It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable […] Lifestyle design is based on massive action—output. Increased output necessitates decreased input.”

Just do what Tim Ferriss says in this instance: “Go on an immediate one-week media fast.”

  • No newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, or nonmusic radio. Music is permitted at all times.
  • No news websites (,,,, etc.). The only exception is
  • No television at all, this includes no video-games
  • No reading books, except for the 4 hour workweek and one hour of fiction pleasure reading prior to bed.
  • No web surfing at the desk unless it is necessary to complete a work task for that day. Necessary means necessary, not nice to have.

Assuming you can handle that, which I am sure you will, let’s attack the other half of all DREAMKILLERS?


The second head of the DREAM KILLING dragon is interruptions. And Tim Ferriss has done such an incredible job of defining Interruption that it is best that I let the man speak for himself:

For our purposes, an interruption is anything that prevents the start-to-finish completion of a critical task, and there are three principal offenders:

Time wasters: those things that can be ignored with little or no consequence. Common time wasters include meetings, discussions, phone calls, web surfing, and e-mail that are unimportant.

Time consumers: repetitive tasks or requests that need to be completed but often interrupt high-level work. Here are a few you might know intimately: reading and responding to e-mail, making and returning phone calls, customer service (order status, product assistance, etc.), financial or sales reporting, personal errands, all necessary repeated actions and tasks.

Empowerment failures: instances where someone needs approval to make something small happen. Here are just a few: fixing customer problems (lost shipments, damaged shipments, malfunctions, etc.), customer contact, cash expenditures of all types.

Tim Ferriss The 4-hour Workweek

Interestingly enough, the remedies I have to offer for solving each of these categories of interruptions is a rather simple prescription: become accountable. And while this is a complete departure from what is advised from the book, I think you will enjoy the process of becoming accountable.

How to account for your productivity:

  1. Assume you are on a one week media fast and this is the only source of information you are allowed. (You will come to cherish self-generated data more than any other type of information.)
  2. Get a small memo pad and a pencil
  3. On the first page write down the names of your four most exciting dreamlines you have due in the next six months
  4. Then set an alarm on your phone to go off at 1pm everyday that says “Write down tomorrow’s three most important tasks”
  5. Then set a second alarm on your phone to go off at 3pm that says “State aloud tomorrow’s three most important tasks”
  6. Keep this memo pad near your writing hand at all times (you can put in your pocket, don’t leave it there)
  7. Whenever you take action towards your dreams be sure to log the time, what you did, and write “Pursued Dreams”
  8. When an interruption enters your life, jot down the time if possible and one or two words to describe the payee (ie checked email) and then account for it by categorizing it Time Waster, Time Consumer, Empowerment Failure
    • eg. 2021/01/07 08:15 * SON VOMITED – TIME WASTER
  9. At the end of the day, reveiw your memo pad and account for your actions/interuptions.
    • To do this you will need to create the following lists: CELEBRATE, NEGOTIATE, IGNORE, DELEGATE, BATCH, SCHEDULE, EMPOWER
    • For each task you have completed that furthers your DREAMS, add the description to CELEBRATE
    • For any entery labeled TIME WASTER, add them to either NEGOTIATE or IGNORE. If you cannot IGNORE a TIME WASTER because the downside would be too severe, NEGOTIATE a better outcome.
    • For TIME CONSUMER entries you need to decide which pile the interruption goes into: DELEGATE, BATCH, or SCHEDULE. Conveniently, these lists will help you automate later.
    • For EMPOWERMENT FAILURES: add entries to your list titled EMPOWER
  10. Then, keeping your dreams front and center with your most important tasks for tomorrow following, shred your logs.
  11. Repeat

In later posts of this series covering the 4-hour Workweek, we are going to leverage these lists to do incredible things. In the meantime, have fun catching all the interruptions while you pursue your dreams!

The 4 Hour Workweek Series: Defining the Nightmare and Living our Dreamlines

For this next part of the series I wanted to explore two of Tim Ferriss’s exercises in one post. When you read the book, the two exercises have their own chapters; but for this post we’ll go over both of them.

As was discussed in my last post, DEAL is the workflow acronym for the transformational journey of becoming a part of the new rich. And from the outset, it is key that we define what we don’t want to happen and what we do want to happen now that we have accepted that we are going to become a part of the new rich. Or, free our income from the tyranny of place and our direct input.

To do this, which is to become a part of the mobile elite, we have to come to grips with a truth that is a little unsettling: you are not the first, nor the dumbest, person to go on this journey of freeing income from place and action. What’s more, you could have done it a loooooooong time ago, you know lots of other examples of people who have done it, and it is something that you have always wanted to do. The question that I have for you: why haven’t you become a part of the new elite yet?

If you are like most people, and Ferriss asserts this as well, you are scared of what action might do to your life if you did what you were thinking of doing. It really is that simple.

What Tim proposes is a two-prong attack for preparing the launch pad into the new rich.

Define the Nightmare

The first exercise is called, Defining the Nightmare, and lately I have been asking people this question. When people talk about what it is that they want to do with their lives, or the big plans that they have, I ask them this simple question, “what is the absolute worst that could happen if you did what it is that you are thinking?”

Now, Tim advises that a person writes down the nightmare in gruesome detail, using as much feeling, color, and sensation as possible. But in conversation most people don’t want to sit and word vomit on a page and have a conversation. For me, I simply goad them on by asking them, “Really, what would be the nightmare if you did…”

My experience when asking people this question is that the nightmare that they conjure up actually sounds like a relief. Seriously, I asked an employee of mine this question with regards to her wanting to write a book. For her, the worst things that could happen is that people would discover that she writes like a hick, and that the nagging voice telling her to finish the book would go away. To this I simply say, “Doesn’t sound too scary after all when you think about it, huh?”

People are willing to live with self-doubt and self-criticism for years, decades even. And the reason for this is simple – people will tolerate familiar discomfort over investigating unknown excitement. Why they do this is simple, tolerating discomfort keeps you safe (for the most part) and investigating the unknown involves risks (sometimes). And for many, just helping them see through the ghost of the unknown, the proverbial nightmare tends to lose its power.

With that being said, just dispelling our nightmares is not always enough to get us to move forward. We also have to dream.


For the next exercise, Tim helps his readers understand that becoming a part of the New Rich, to undergo the transformational DEAL framework, is not about creating a vacuum of time. The purpose of freeing your income and person from place and responsibility is so that you can pursue what excites you. Ferriss is quite explicit not to use the word happiness because he believes that happiness is not motivating enough to get you to free your self. He would argue that happiness can be bought with a bottle of wine and a loaf of artisan bread. That’s where dreamlining comes in.

Dreamlining is the process of defining what will be true for you in the next six months. What will you have, what will you be, and what will you be doing now that you have become a part of the new rich.

What I love about this exercise is the emphasis on a short timeline (Parkinson’s Law), and the clear emphasis on being/doing instead of just having. So here is how it works. Take a piece of paper and you are going to write today’s date and the date it will be 6 months from today. Then you are going to create three columns, label them “Have” “Be” “Doing”, and turn on your thinking cap. What you are going to do is you are going to write down five examples of things that will change your life for you if they were true.

The litmus test here is Excitement, and much like Marie Kondo’s “Joy”, you have to feel the spark. What five things would excite you to have? What five things would excite you to be? And finally, what five things would excite you to be doing?

Here is an example of one of the Dreamlines I have made in the past. Once you are done with yours, I want you to circle the four things that excite you the most. The more unreasonable and outlandish the dreams, the more exciting and motivating those dreams become. (Mine are set in parentheses because I can’t circle them.)


(Less clutter)

A concubine

(Plane Tickets to Mexico)


(Less responsibility)


A captain

A fighter

A gymnast

A teacher

An Author


(Traveling Mexico to trace my English Roots)

Traveling to England to uncover my ancestor’s country

Starting a radically based academy

Posting a daily blog post

Consuming a lot of mushrooms in the desert

The four things that would excite me most were:

  • In six months I will have less clutter
  • In six months I will have Plane Tickets to Mexico
  • In six months I will have less responsibility
  • In six months I will have traced my English ancestry through Mexico

The key is not to do it all, but to limit what would make you most excited.

The next steps to Dreamlining are pretty simple. First establish a budget for each of those dreams; you can do the math of discovering what your Target Daily Income for those dreams needs to be if you want. Determine the actions you can take today, tomorrow and the next day for each of those four exciting dreams, and then do the first one today.

If you are ready to start becoming a part of the New Rich, you will need to first define you nightmare. Afterwards, you will be ready to define you dreams. Are you ready to start living your dreams?