Do a Life Purge – 5 Lessons from The 4 Hour Workweek

On my last visit to Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across The 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. This book didn’t become a #1 New York Times bestseller for no reason. I’ve only just started reading and already it shares a lot of good ideas and new perspectives that I think will help get us (and you) closer to the life we are trying to build.

Not that I am trying to cut my work week to four hours, yet. Maybe that’s something I can work on. Still, I think there are a few lessons from the book that can apply as I do my semi-annual Purge.

1 – Lifestyle Design

This is something our family has been putting into practice for years. Ferris puts a name on it for us with lifestyle design. What is it that we want our lives to look like? This is a question we should all be asking ourselves. We have been giving it some serious thought lately.

As the kids grow up and move out, we are heading into a new season. What is next? We were on track for the typical American retirement (maybe just a little early), when eventually it dawned on us… why? Specifically, why wait? How did we end up back on the conveyor belt of cultural expectation? Screw that. We have decided to join the ranks of the non-deferred life and live it NOW. We have too much adventure left in us to wait, and life is too short.

Do a Life Purge - 5 Lessons from The 4 Hour Workweek - AT HOME ON THE GO.COM

So, what exactly do we want life to look like in this next season?

Ditch all preconceived ideas of what our life is supposed to look like (the cultural expectation), and think about what we want it to look like. What are our dreams?

As for us…

  • We want to be together more. This is the big one. We’ve been married for over twenty years and love being together. Maybe it sounds sappy, but we don’t care.
  • We want to travel more. We have lived abroad and loved it. We love adventure. We love home too, but we have been in one spot for a while and its starting to get itchy. As the kids get older and need us less, we want to become increasingly mobile {again}.
  • We don’t want to wait until ‘retirement’ to live the life that makes us happy. Life is too short for that. It can be cut short at any moment. Don’t wait.

So what steps to we need to take to make these things a reality? If we want to live the life we have in mind, we are going to have to be intentional.

2 – Dreamlining – Make goals. Define a target.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss calls it dreamlining and suggests a three to six-month timeline. I find the timeline is not as important as taking the time to actually articulate your goals and define a possible target.

I say possible because in life I have learned it is important to remain flexible. Circumstances change. It is good to have a plan but we still need to be able to roll with the inevitable unforeseen possibilities and opportunities as well as challenges.

It is good to be specific when setting goals but sometimes mine start out a little vague at first. I know that the ideas will take shape over time as I work through things. The point is to help you define and focus on the ideas floating around in your head that you would like to do eventually, not to get yourself locked into whatever you write down.

Start with where you want to be, or some other fixed point in the future {such as your youngest child’s graduation}, and then work your way backward. What steps do you need to take to put yourself in the position to be able to make the life you want happen?

This is a rough outline of where we are headed. There will obviously be more to it, but this is a start…

  • 3 years – House rented out. Living abroad for several months at a time. Using the tiny house while home. We can stop renting it out and use it as long as we can sustain the expenses on our income. Mobile life that allows us to work on the go from anywhere we decide to call home at the time.
  • 2 years – Josh graduates High School – We want to have to homestead to the point that we can leave it. We are renting it out short term and using the cabin and Josh’s tiny house if he builds it. The house expenses are being covered, and the place is being kept up as in investment. Jim is still working, but beginning to transition out and toward being in charge of his own time.
  • 1 year – the cabin is finished and we use it to rent out and/or stay while the main house is rented out.

To move in this direction we need to work on…

  • Education – learn business/entrepreneurship. gather additional training as needed.
  • Digital/Automated income – get something figured out – blogging, product, Airbnb, etc
  • Homestead – get it streamlined
  • Josh (our youngest kiddo) – finish school, successful launch

Once we have defined our target and the beginning steps needed to get there, it is time to eliminate the things that don’t move us toward it. One of the most interesting concepts in The 4 Hour Workweek which absolutely revolutionized my thinking is the 80/20 Principle.

3 – The 80/20 Principle

I find this principle absolutely fascinating because when you stop and think about it, it totally makes sense! Eighty percent of outputs result from 20 percent of inputs – in just about everything, all areas of life. This is known as Pareto’s Law. Basically, you get 80 percent of your returns, from 20 percent of your work. So focus on that 20 percent. Or on the flip side – 80 percent of your biggest headaches come from 20 percent of the issues, so eliminate them or deal with them. It is time to assess what is worth it. Which efforts are resulting in a yield and which are just a waste of time.

This has me thinking about all aspects of life, take the garden for example. I have been gardening seriously in this spot for more than four years now {year round, as much of our own food as possible} and I have to say, I think Pareto is on to something. I actually remember commenting last week that it feels like 70 percent {close enough} of the work that I do results in little to no yield. I plant x number of seeds. Most of them germinate. Those get nursed along to maturity. Some will thrive. But there are many dangers along the way for little seedlings and tasty little baby broccolis. Drought, slugs, moles, deer, bugs, careless steps of careful gardeners. One little packet of seeds maybe results in a couple pounds of carrots or a head or two of broccoli. Some things are worth growing. But the truth is, some aren’t. For the amount of time and resources I put in for some of these things, it may be more effective to visit the organic section of my local market.

This principle can be applied to all areas of life.

4 – Stop doing what makes you busy, and start doing what moves you forward.

It is so easy to get distracted by the many minuscule tasks that vie for my attention throughout the day only to get to the end of the day and wonder what it is I actually accomplished. This is one of the challenges of working from home, which is essentially what I do. It is too easy for the house to get more and more clean, or the garden to become absolutely perfect with everything in its place, but I want more from my days than that.

I am going to work on blocking out my time for certain things and doing one thing at a time. That means not checking Facebook every time it pops up on my phone, and not grabbing that stray bit of laundry {or rogue weed} which inevitably leads to another, and another, and another thing that I ‘might as well do’ since I am at it. Stay focused and be intentional! Focus on our long-term goals.

5 – Make time for the extraordinary

Schedule recurring tasks for certain times, and only those times. For some people, it will be email, phone calls or other business. For me, it is laundry, housekeeping, menu planning, shopping, weeding, planting, etc. We all have our recurring tasks that are a part of our life and routine. And if you are like most people, these ordinary tasks can become a distraction that pulls us away from the extraordinary work we really want to do. Always checking email, always tidying up, some of us just can’t leave things to sit if something needs to be done with them.

Starting now, I am going to give myself permission to only deal with these recurring chores at certain times of the day thereby freeing up the majority of my days to actually accomplish things. Things that will move us closer to our goals.

It feels good to focus on the things that really matter. Life by default, what happens when we aren’t intentional, is living in a rut. Too many of us are satisfied with such an existence. We always feel better after we cut the clutter and excess. Get rid of the things in your life that do not bring you joy. Take time to think about what makes you and your family happy and focus on those things.

Follow this blog by email and then connect with us on social media to come along for the ride as we move toward taking this show back on the road! You can find us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

UPDATE: We’ve also started documenting our journey to location independence here on our YouTube channel.

Here is to living life, and soaking up the adventure! What is your Dreamline? What is it that you need to purge to make it happen?! Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek? If so, what were your big takeaways? Tell us in the comments section below!

Showing 4 comments
  • Alex Daro

    Tania! Excellent post outlining Tim’s take on lifestyle design. I just finished reading the four hour work week and absolutely loved it. It forced me to think BIG and stop worrying about the minutia of life. We have very similar threads running through our lives at the exact same time! Two orthogonal vectors meeting at the exact same point ( geometry class? LOL ) Very cool 🙂 I will definitely follow your blog. Check out some of my posts, I think you will find some common ground.

    All the best!

    – Alex Daro

  • MrFireStation

    “Stop doing what makes you busy, start doing what moves you forward”. I really like that. My wife and I are in a similar situation to you. Time for a life redesign. Only 6 more months until we walk out of the Megacorp office.

    • Tania

      Six months is just around the corner… I wish we were that close.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
Early Retirement Location Independence Why WaitSan Francisco Things to Do JACK KEROUAC ALLEY Sidewalk Quote