5 Lessons from “The 4-Hour Workweek” for Photographers

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  By Pia Lopez
5 Lessons from “The 4-Hour Workweek” for Photographers www.sleeklens.com

If you are a reading fan, then surely you must have heard about Tim Ferris’ best-seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek”. It’s all about eliminating distractions, automating processes, and giving your best where it’s required. Although, is it possible to apply these lessons to our career as photographers?

Let’s start by defining a usual workweek: 9-to-5 shifts, 5 days a week, which stands for 40 hrs of weekly work as a minimum for a full-time job. It can spike up to 48 if you work on Saturdays or Sundays. Perhaps you work as a full-time photographer, either for yourself on your own company, but most of the cases are exactly the opposite. You work 9-to-5 for somebody else, either in photography or not, with little time per week to pursue your passion as you also have to sum up the time required to attend family, commute, house chores, health, etc.

What came as a revelation to Ferris was the knowledge of the “Pareto Principle”, a term to describe a practice that streamlines the 80% of your productivity comes from 20% of your time. This term, named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, was born after Pareto himself noticed that 80% of the wealth of Italy came from 20% of its inhabitants at said time. Hence, we can ask ourselves: how is it possible that such few amounts of people can build wealth and most of us struggle to meet the monthly goals?

The answer to that question is as simple as resource management. Not just money and knowledge but mostly time. How many times do we pursue impossible goals just because we think if we try one extra time we’re set to be successful?

Overall, the book is split into four key sections:

  • Step I: D is for Definition. Applies to ditching the idea of working your life out for wealth, instead of working smartly your entire life following your passions.
  • Step II: E is for Elimination. Taking off the distracting elements that affect your work-life performance, and that also eat up valuable personal time.
  • Step III: A is for Automation. Give up your role as a multitasker, and take on a manager role, using your skills when they are vital.
  • Step IV: L is for Liberation. On the value of remote work, dealing with the newly free time you gained, and so on.

Therefore, let’s explore what I consider are 5 valuable lessons from this book that apply to any photographer.

Lesson #1 – Define what drives you

We discussed briefly above what the Pareto principle entails. But what if I tell you that such a principle can also affect the motivation for your entire routine?

Say you are an architectural photographer that enjoys capturing urban sights. Urban photography is what feeds your soul and boosts your creativity, but in turn, Real Estate photography is more profitable and you need to meet your budget. Whereas you could have a good time practising Real Estate photography as your full-time job, indeed, it’s not your main motivation but a means to secure an income. Is there a way in which you can balance your passion with your required income per month?

Yes, in fact, you can do it. Start by applying the concept in “The 4-Hour Workweek” of relative income, that being translated into what you exactly make per hour at your current job. You could become amazed at how little money you’re making if you compare the outcome of creating multiple sources of income that secure the same monthly budget for your household, perhaps even more.

Options that you’ve never considered, such as teaching online courses, creating your own YouTube channel, selling assets online, networking for new potential customers and so on can become a reality. By defining what drives you, you also open the gates to endless options to become that person who identifies with a purpose. That’s your why, that will fuel your craft and take your skills beyond your imagination.

Lesson #2 – On the value of quality time

How much time do we lose each day by browsing social media content, attending meetings we don’t want to, solving business problems, or even replying to emails? The third pillar of this book is the automatisation of processes, either by hiring a virtual assistant (which up to date is still a viable solution) or, much better, using software to speed up our efficiency.

Permit yourself to take some time off to evaluate the real extent of time each task you do require. Then, see which tasks can be simply eliminated or sent to different channels for its execution. Again, not need your direct input to be performed.

One fine example of this is the usage of social media tools to manage your accounts, such as Hootsuite or Buffer. You can dedicate one day per month to schedule the content to be released, then let the software do the task for you, listing hashtags, the meta info for the post, and so on.

By adopting this time-efficiency look, you free up your agenda to do the things that truly resonate with your soul. Hence, a satisfactory recipe for happy living.

Lesson #3 – On working everywhere, for a lifetime

One common fallacy is that we see work as something oriented to be dreaded. Something that one day we get rid of, and then we start living. What’s liberating about “The 4-Hour Workweek” is the idea that we don’t actually need to work until retirement. Retirement can happen at any point in our lives as long as we keep track of our finances.

Instead of scheduling one-week vacations, we can take months, or even a year off if our financial network secures multiple sources of income. This means, even when we’re not working, we’re making money. This perspective shift will alter your view of your job. Not needing to see it as an obligation but as an enjoyable way to spend time, acquire knowledge, and be fulfilled.

If you don’t have any extra responsibilities, then this also means you can pack your job wherever you desire to go. Say you want to travel to Eastern Europe for a year, well, you can do it if you own and master your time as means for accomplishing your business goals. This may not apply to those that work under dependency mode, but if you consider yourself a freelancer or an entrepreneur, then why not give it a go?

Lesson #4 – Don’t be afraid of saying NO

This concept not only applies to trivial conversations or decisions to take, but also to meetings, tasks, and anything you can imagine. There’s one book that’s particularly useful to those who struggle with being people-pleasers, which is “F*ck No!: How to Stop Saying Yes When You Can’t, You Shouldn’t, or You Just Don’t Want To” by Sarah Knight.

Whenever we force ourselves to accept demands we don’t want to do, we’re enabling people to have control over our lives. This is crucial to acknowledge when it comes to projects that fall outside of our comfort zone but don’t give us any benefit in completing them. Say a favour for a friend, a session for a long-time customer that’s far from your niche – you can create a detailed list with all those examples.

How can we be certain of which things to discard and which ones to agree on? Well, the essentialist philosophy makes the process as easy as this:

Write down the opportunities/decisions to take. Write down 3 minimum criteria that they should match for. Then, write down 3 ideal/extreme criteria to meet. If the decision/opportunity doesn’t meet 2 out of 3 of the extreme criteria, discard it. If the decision doesn’t even meet the minimum criteria, then it’s a clear NO.

Lesson #5 – Never stop learning

You can cheat yourself into believing you already mastered your craft and there’s nothing else on the horizon that might pique your interest. Reality tells us otherwise, as life is a constant learning process.

With the extra time, you earned by optimising your daily routine, save some of it to invest in the best three things you can do: exercise for your health, sleep for improved performance, and reading to acquire knowledge.

Get your noise-cancelling headphones if you cannot find a peaceful nook to devour a book, but mostly permit yourself to enjoy some time off the digital frenzy of answering emails, being “online” and so on.

Your creativity levels will increase. Your stress and anxiety be lessened, and many other benefits can directly relate to these practices.

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Pia Lopez

Pia Lopez is a self-taught photographer, graphic designer and ArchViz artist. As Content Director of Sleeklens.com, her work is driven by her two biggest passions: technology and art.

Comments (1)

  1. Elvira Guest

    I love thank you 😊