How the State Keeps You Working Long Hours

Entrepreneur Tim Ferriss found he had a mega-hit on his hands with his 2007 book, The 4-Hour Workweek, a paean to a new attitude toward work. In it, Ferriss recommends a four-step approach to balancing work and life in a way that leads to a more rewarding lifestyle. We are now nearing the day when his concepts can be applied to the economy as a whole.

Ferriss directly challenges notions of the firm and employment that are fundamental to how we think about — and regulate — work. While he doesn’t directly mention them, Ferriss puts Ronald Coase’s and F.A. Hayek’s theories to use in a way that CEOs, regulators, and legislators should follow.

Ferriss advises a four-step framework for rethinking your work life, which goes by the acronym DEAL (though for many people it will be DELA). The steps are as follows:

  • Work out what you really want from life (“What excites you?”) and what it will take to get you there.
  • Eliminate tasks that take up time for little result; be effective rather than efficient.
  • Automate not just tasks but income streams as well.
  • Work when and where you want to by liberating yourself from the 9-to-5 routine and the physical office location (through remote working arrangements and flexible scheduling).

While Ferriss aims his framework at individuals trying to escape drudgery and live their dreams, there’s a lot here for a CEO to ponder. In fact, a lot of startups aim to be 4-hour companies.

Entrepreneurs, after all, launch businesses to follow a dream. Few companies are started without a vision of something greater — the definition. But failure to achieve the next three steps often drags a business down.

Companies can…