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The Forced 4-Hour Work Week

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It’s a bit ironic that I have been forced into my own 4-hour workweek as I’m reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. I have been enjoying the book quite a bit, but at the same time I think a lot of his ideas are far fetched, stupid, and immature. I do however see a lot of value in things like, automation, limiting the time you check emails, and empowering employees.

I have long wanted to find a job where I can work limited hours and have more time to enjoy life, and not just WORK. Since starting Bearded Brothers I have been very disciplined to limit my work to around 40 hours a week on most weeks, but I still dream of working remotely in Colorado during the summer to escape the brutal Texas heat. Yet I have not seen this as possible for several reasons, until now.

These past few weeks have been a forced experiment of a 4-hour workweek. Three weeks ago my wife and I welcomed my son Joshua into the world. I took paternity leave the following week. The week after that started with a holiday, so the week was short, and I limited my time in the office to be with my wife and newborn. The week following my wife got sick, so I was spending yet another week away from the office.

I never stopped working completely during this time, but my work was limited. I only really checked my email a couple times a day – although force of habit had me checking my phone on occasion, but far less than usual. I only took phone meetings if absolutely necessary, and I put a couple projects on the back burner and spent a limited amount of time on them.

This experiment has taught me several things:

    1. I don’t have to be in the captain’s chair at the office for things to flow smoothly. I have known this for a while now, but after three weeks of being absent, or having a limited presence in the office, it is even clearer…. My team ROCKS! This wasn’t always the case, but the main lesson I have learned is to hire slow, and spend time finding the right people. You don’t want crazy working for you – THAT will stress you out and you will never feel like you can step away for a long period of time.
    2. Checking email several times throughout the day is NOT necessary. I’ve recently achieved the infamous “Inbox Zero,” and having a well-managed inbox has helped with this. During my time out of the office I limited my time responding to email to a couple times a day. I did however glance at it several times a day, out of habit, but even that I began to see was unnecessary. Moving forward I plan to only spend time in my Inbox a couple times a day.
    3. My business is much more automated than I thought. It took a long time to get there though. There was a point in time I was making the energy bars, delivering them, cutting checks, placing orders, getting new accounts, and running the payroll. Now, I’m more of a backseat driver. I’m not outsourcing anything, but I have put into place my own “in-house automation.” Bearded Brothers has built a solid reliable team that can be trusted in the absence of management.
    4. The concept of Lifestyle Design and Mini Retirements are not out of reach. My dream to spend my summers working remotely is a very likely reality next summer. Being away these past few weeks has shown me that I have a solid crew working for me that needs very little supervision. Any problems that arise can be solved with a simple phone call or text message.

When I first started reading the chapters in Tim’s book about outsourcing and automation, I was thinking there is no way my business can run like that, but in a way it already is. Just not in the sense of foreign outsourcing. I honestly have to say in the most humble way possible, it feels amazing to have built a business with the help of my amazing business partner that can run in our absence.

The only hard part about pulling the trigger on more remote working is being absent from my team. I love the relationships I have built with them, and love being available for them. But, the reality of it is, I’m more than likely using that as an excuse to not do something bold and exciting. More than likely, I will walk back into the office next week, my team will be happy to see me and things will continue to operate the same as always, which is the same with me in the office or out.

About Caleb

I'm the co-owner/founder of Bearded Brothers, an organic snackfood company. I love ultra running, rock climbing and cycling. I'm also a vegetarian, passionate about health and well-being.