How Much Does Your Commute Really Cost You? Calculate It… Then Kill It?

What is the true cost of your commute? One example comes from 4HWW reader Troy Gardner, who recently wrote to me:

I’m still work focused (I like creating things!), but since I control my time/location, I’m reaping some of the rewards of being among the New Rich. My girlfriend and I will be spending the entire month of October visiting Chicago and Hawaii. Since I’m project/laptop based I can work during the evenings/free time, while spending the time out and about, finally learning surfing, and maybe kiteboarding etc.

Here is his experience, in his own words, of going from shocked awareness to blissful mobility…

People often fail to include the amount of time, wear and tear on the car, and loss of sanity into the allure of a high paying job, and how that high paying job once calculated hourly might not be better off than a fast-food worker.

My Example (back in 2000):

* 100K startup job in Sunnyvale, frequent meetings and late nights.

* Lived in Pacifica because Sunnyvale was boring.

* Girlfriend in Oakland: the only place she could afford a house.

Which, if your familiar with Bay Area traffic, forms a bermuda triangle of life suckage. What would be 20 minutes on a good day could turn into 4 hours of red lights. The draining aspect is its unpredictability, which you can never tell, and which also makes planning on getting to work on time difficult (should I get up at 4am or 6 am?).

Measuring the Pain

I got out my trusty stopwatch and averaged times over a few weeks. I was spending 20hrs in commute (commuting is an awful part-time job!) and 45-65 hrs at work, sometimes 6 days a week. Which when averaged into the “high” income calculated hourly rate between UPS delivery boy and McDonald’s chef, and I’m sure the UPS guy was in better shape. Needless to say, I was quite astounded finishing the calculation.

On Fridays, I would go visit my girlfriend and get so frazzled from the commute that, when faced with another commute into the city to go out, coupled with 20-45 minutes finding parking (sometimes coupled with stresses of showtimes), any enjoyment to be had was quickly offset by the road rage and unknowns. This frequently took its toll on the relationship in the form of arguments.

Getting to a Zero Commute

Ever since then, I’ve never lived more than 30 minutes away from work, either structuring where I live, or where/how I work. Here are the steps I followed.

1. Negotiated (both work and girlfriend) for flex time, avoiding traffic. Savings of 5-7 hours a week.

2. Second was switching to 4 day in office, 1 day telecommuting, showing productivity enhancements.

3. 3rd was going to 3 day 10 hour days (keeping an eye out for how to go independent), networking and building credibility: started presenting at user meetings, conferences, tech edited books.

4. Having enough in savings, and enough contacts, that I could go solo without stress.

Interestingly, since going solo, my hourly rate in the last year has gone from 1.5 to 4 times what I was making working for others. The projects (I develop in flash) are smoother, as there are fewer people in the pipeline and less that can go wrong. My commute can be zero if I choose, yet I can travel more. Right now, my girlfriend and I are planning a full month trip to Chicago and Hawaii.

This is not to say that one has to work out of one’s home. Increasingly, I’m entirely laptop-based, so I can work while visiting/travelling a higher percentage of the time, etc. While cafes are obvious, there are lots of other avenues. Some highlights of my work:

* in a quiet sunny grassy/tree park that connects to the cities free wireless,

* a free concert at the city of Pasadena that I wouldn’t have paid that much attention to just watching.

* at the Getty museum on the lawn.

It’s easy to make a goal of eating at one new place and seeing one new street. I was amazed at how little I knew the area around me. I might spend now 45 minutes a day commuting, but this is zero-stress walking and sightseeing and, at least in a decent city, it’s amazing how much is accessible via foot and bus distance.

The killer commute and addiction to cars is really sad… The hidden causalities in relationships, jobs, due to the stress has never been measured, but I’m sure it’s high. It’s hard to be present for the nice dinner/evening in front of you when your already stressed out about the morning commute and the important meeting.

Zero Commute with 500% More Travel

The amount I save not paying interest or insurance can be used for other things. That said I love flying when I travel, and $600 is easily 2 flights a month (perhaps more if your using the Platinum AMEX card). Renting car and a hostel can be $50/day in the US.

A few years ago, a good friend and I wanted to drive from Vegas to Marin, up the beautiful California coastal highway for a friends wedding, so we rented a convertable Mustang for a 7 days and came back through Yosemite. It was a blast! Cost $240 + $140 in gas, split 2 ways. All the experiences, none of the maintenance or interest. The car we rented had a dragging brake caliper, which I’m sure cost at least half of what we spent that week to fix. He eventually put down a payment on a house, and I went solo.

What unidentified time sucks have you suffered from, and how did you — or could you — eliminate them?

[This post edited from Troy Gardner’s new blog]


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95 Replies to “How Much Does Your Commute Really Cost You? Calculate It… Then Kill It?”

  1. Prize should definately be a castle! There are some nice ones for sale on

    Hmmm, an island would be nice. How big are we going here?

  2. Tim,

    Great post and a huge congrats to Troy! Really enjoyed the story of transformation.

    I didn’t have the commute problem, that was only 10 minutes, but going to work for a company with no creativity, with no trust and respect nearly broke me.

    Having just started to work for myself, the signs are good, clients on board within 3 weeks and I am starting to feel me again!

    That feels bloody marvellous!

    Jon 🙂

  3. As I was reading this post I couldn’t help but think that it was just as much about relationships as anything else. You could change the title to:

    “4 steps to a better relationship – a few years ago, my girlfriend and I were constantly arguing, now we’re about to spend a month together in Hawaii. How did I do it? Read on to find out…”

    My favourite part of your post Troy was the imagery of sitting and doing work on the lawn of the Getty Museum… very cool indeed.

    One of the coolest things I’ve found with working while travelling or working from home or cafe is that not only do you save time (commuting, ironing shirts etc), it is easier to tap into your creativity and I nearly always save money. Especially if working abroad. $3.50 accommodation & 80c pad thai in Thailand, $1 beef noodle soup in Hanoi… I can’t even buy a coffee for that at home.

    Stay a few weeks and you ‘save’ the equivalent of your airfare and then some.

    Beats flourescent-lit cubicle hell anyday 🙂

  4. Great post!

    Concerning prizes for your next ridiculously overambitious competition I always prefer experiences rather than physical goods. Travels and meeting with interesting people while we experience adventures. That’s what I call PRIZE! Prize that you will always remember.

    My proposal?

    First Prize: Imagine a full paid raid in 4×4 riding the forests and beaches of wild Costa Rica, but with a small group of entrepreneurs and interesting people to enjoy even more the trip and make it more a learning experience.

    Best regards from Spain!

  5. My commute takes approx 10 minutes driving time to the metro, 30 minutes on the metro, and 7 minutes walking.

    Mr. Micah drives me there, so we have a quick morning time together in the car (keeps me from being stressed, mostly). Then I read on the metro (reimagine it as my personal reading time, where I don’t have any other responsibilities). Then the walk is part of my goal of getting x many minutes of walking per day.

    Reimagining it makes it a lot easier. Plus the whole not driving part means not dealing with insane traffic and means I can read.

  6. Tim, Mr. Gardner’s account is clearly a golden testament to all that is true, good, and right about 4HWW. His account really puts the spotlight on that soul-sucking, spirit-crushing work ethic that drives so many today. Now, if you’re going to announce a ridiculously over-ambitious competition, then you best announce a ridiculously over-ambitious prize: a 45-minute suborbital space ride aboard a Rocketplane XP (slated for service in ’08), with none other than Burt Rutan manning the cockpit. Hey, I can dream can’t I? 😉

  7. How about 7 dinners with a famous author – one on each continent?

    Or if the contest is really hard, then 7 day’s activities with that famous author – one on each continent?

  8. How about an all expense paid trip(or at least airfare) around and visit the Seven Wonders of the world with a famous author, like…. Tim?

  9. Killer commute… I spend 40 hrs a month in my car driving to and from work. If I could telecommute, it would be an extra 3 months a year to spend time with family and work on business ventures!

    Grand prize… A year of my current bills to be paid to pursue my grand business ideas and a 7 continent traveling internship with a famous author.

  10. Wow – you guys are aiming high. I was going to suggest a couple months of weekly lifestyle coaching over Skype.

    How about that, plus seven continents, plus a pony?

  11. About the commute…

    We live in a big city and could have had a less expensive house in the suburbs. This would have meant buying a second car (car payments, insurance, maintenance) as well as making long days for both my husband and myself resulting in an unsatisfying family life for us and the two kids.

    We opted to rent a much more expensive apartment about 100 yards from a subway stop and 2 miles from my husband’s office. His commute is about 15 minutes by bike which he rides 8 months of the year. The children’s school is just across the street. We hardly drive the car anymore (which is good seeing as gas is now $5/gallon).

    Yes, we could have had the big house with the yard and garden but we never would have enjoyed it because we would have been commuting all the time!

  12. Good points here Tim. After reading your book, I have dialed back on going into the office much at all. No permission, just stopped coming in, but kept productivity high. Also, I hired a really talented colleague to create my 2 websites for the business ideas I came up with. The Muse is fast becoming a reality! Thanks again for writing such an inspiring work, Tim.

    On the prize idea – I would agree with the other comments above: Spending time with the creator of this vision would be time well spent, on another continent would be a great bonus!

  13. I purchased your book two days ago and I am loving it! Great stuff. You have inspired me to immediately start automating my life and living the dreams I have always had. Although this is a very fearful step for me to take, I am going to jump in and not look back.

    I am anxious to hear about this competition. Prizes…well the above suggestions are great. I especially like the 7 continent trip with Tim.

  14. How about winning the tools you are using.

    While I’m already doing the tablet PC thing (Tim, you know how great they are). Giving away hosting, adspace on the web, a great tablet laptop, an iphone, contacts with a fulfillment center (maybe even a percentage off?), and a paid virtual assistant for a year. That would really be following what you’re talking about, wouldn’t cost too much (as a prize), but would truly put someone far along the way to that elusive 4 hours with all the tools to make it happen.

    Thanks so very much for clarifying what I’ve been trying to do for so long.

    -Fred Schechter H.B.

  15. Ryan – I was gonna ask for a pony!

    As for a prize, how about working with the winner to actually carry out the idea/whatever it is and help see that the world is actually changed by it.

    And of course a seven continent trip would be awesome as well. Of course, we could one up that one and throw a sub-orbital flight into the mix.

  16. Tim-

    We Love Your Book! Thanks for everything.

    I’ve never really had to deal with commuting, but I do

    love how breaking your life down and quantifying your

    time, and relative income to truly live your dream lifestyle Now…

    Is Life Changing To Say The Least!

    As far as a prize is concerned?…

    You said you’re looking for competition that’s “ridiculously overambitious” and will “change the world” so I think the prize should be worth it too.

    I’m with several others here in that some personal time

    with yourself would be amazing. Quiza en Buenos Aires? Quien sabe, pues veremos…

    -Travis Tolman

  17. As both an employee and a business owner, I my job is set up with some flex time, and a very short commute. Further, I am able to walk to and from work. The walk provides exercise, but it also provides a wonderful time to transition between tasks. To move my focus towards the next project ahead of me – be it at work, or in my business; as I transition between the two physically, I’m also able to transition mentally.

  18. Another way to look at this:

    A difference of 10 minutes in your one-way commute time = two additional 40-hour work weeks spend in ‘job-related’ activity.

    10 min x 2 (there and back) x 5 days a week x 50 weeks / year (assuming the usual 2 week vacation) = 83 HOURS of time devoted uselessly to your job.

  19. I know i’m blessed – i have a 7 minute commute. That could stretch to 10 if the school bus doesn’t pull over to let cars pass quickly or if there is an ambulance call and the ambulance is backing back into the fire hall. My best commute ever was a 15 minute skiff ride – past sea lions and humpback whales almost daily. Enough bragging though. I do want to go solo so i can save those quick commutes into more travel too.

  20. great post. i will never take a job where the commute is over 40 minutes. for me, that is the max. and i live within washington, DC. i just don’t want to waste the time traveling to and from a job.

    now onto this ridiculously abitious contest…i am really excited about this! prizes: honestly at the top of my list would be a dinner/lunch or even brunch (best food of the day) with yourself! OR (and this is pretty darn ridiculous to even bring up) weekly 30-min. phone conversations for the winner for 6 months-1 year. (pretty crazy thought) with 2 face-to-face meetings thrown in. i figure the winner is a pretty ambitious and fun person who will do well and accomplish some fantastic things with this type of prize.

    A 3rd prize idea – and this is pretty cool – full funding for the winner’s dream to become a reality. In other words, the winner does all the legwork ASIDE from financial dealings.

    There ya go! :0)

  21. ZERO COMMUTE: I live right downtown. 5 minute walk to the seaplanes then 30 minute flight to Vancouver. Get to meet a new client or associate downtown for lunch everyday. With the zero-commute savings I now rent 2 apartments in the same heritage building. One for my wife & baby, one for my office, weight bench and barbecue. My wife had always hated my training dummy hanging from the living room ceiling, and her clothes smelling like steak, so she’s happy. And now I can play with my radio controlled helicopter without worrying about crashing it into hanging pictures or flower vases.

    PRIZES! Bachelorium’s idea gets my second! Also some telephone consulting would be hugely valued.


  22. I really like the idea of a seven contintent internship with the author – that sounds absolutely amazing.

    I can’t wait to hear what the contest is!!!

  23. How about a job or job opporunity that would allow this type of lifestyle? For those of us who are in the corporate world but can’t get out of the office to work at home or telecommute we are looking for our golden opportunity. That would be an awesome prize!

  24. How about setting up an automated buisness for the winner – one that would have them rich for life, sort of guiding them through the 4 hour work week principles by actually making a buisness for them. Ah, probably asking too much – how about a rediculously large bag of candy?

  25. I’m doing an internship for which I have to commute 2 hours (one way). I spend about one our of that working on my program in the train. The other one, on the bus and waiting at the station, is mostly sleeping.

  26. Tim,

    Tim, a nice prize for your contest might be some sort of muse mentorship–help and guidance in moving from concept (or pre-concept paralysis and option overload) to automated income generator.

    But maybe what you’re after is a reward more in keeping with the nature of the challenge. In which case–any hints as to what may be involved? Looking forward to hearing more about this.

  27. Ahh. Brings me back to my days living on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get to the office plus I worked half day on saturday (in an intoxicated state, of course). I was there physically, anyway.

    So, 1.5 days of travel per week x 50 weeks = 70 plus days that I COULD have spent on ____ vacation, work, sleep…whatever.

    Tim, when do you plan to post details on the competition?


  28. How about an opportunity to introduce the 4 hour work week to some highschool seniors to get them to view the whole idea of work differently and provide them with a book. Of course the incentive is to spend time with Tim doing this and get a life makeover from Tim that the kids could track via a blog to see for themselves how you can change your world and to share their experiences.

  29. Great ideas for the prize, but for me forget the frills. I would want one on one mentoring from Tim. Then I can do the frills for the rest of my life.

    P.S. Tim thanks again for the great party at Dolce in SF. It was great to meet you and your friends.

    Bill Ayers

  30. Hi All!

    Thanks for the great observations and suggestions. The contest details will be coming between now and the first week of October. Hope to have more soon 😉

    Pura vida,


  31. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the post. My work commute has been the bain of my existance for the last four years. At a previous company I commuted from Boston to Providence every day and returned back at night. These days with a daycare drop off situation, my commute falls during rush hour and is often 1.5 hours or more each way several days a week. My Mustang is also not the most fuel efficient mobile around. I have been listening to your 4HWW CDs and am reconsidering some entrepreneurial ideas – – at the very least to stop wasting gas (and time).

    Thanks Tim!


  32. A friend of mine works in a company where they have, get this, TWO half days!

    And his commute, like most of the other employees, is 1.5 hours one-way! Clearly there’s no mathematician in the company.

    Thankfully, I’m hiring him this month for my muse and then his commute will be about 20 feet, from the bedroom to the study.

  33. Commute is 15 steps to my home office. Quit the rat race more than a year ago and went solo. No more Corporate America pushing my buttons, running my life, making me (us all) think that’s the way to it has to be. I’ve applied the law of attraction to my life and it’s unfolding just as I envisioned.

  34. 1 for living within 30 minutes of work. I always try to live within 20 minutes of work. The commute would drive me crazy otherwise thinking about all the years of my life I would be wasting (not that I don’t waste the time I’ve saved up ;-)).

  35. I did something pretty stupid two summers ago. I took a job as a bus monitor. I got to hang out with one of my friends all day and work with children, but the job was terrible. It was a one hour commute each way. There was a huge gap between shifts in the middle of the day, so we just slept on the floor for a few hours. I had to get up at 3am every morning. I was constantly sleep deprived. And best of all, I made about $7 an hour. If you consider the amount of money I was spending on gas, energy drinks, and bad food, I made almost nothing.

    What I should have done is what I started to do this summer: work on solo projects that have income earning potential. Even if they made no money, it would have been a much better experience without the hassle associated with such a long commute. Oh well, I’ve since learned my lesson about opportunity cost.

  36. TF:

    You know this is the first time you mention “relationships” or “girlfriends” on the blog, and in this case it’s Troy who is doing the mentioning (if I’m reading it correctly). I’ve implemented 4HWW and have never been happier. I run my company from SF, NYC, Cape Cod, and wherever else I find a cheap room and internet connection. Issue is I have a girlfriend in Oakland (what’s with the girlfriends in Oakland for 4HWW’ers?), and she’s tied to her job. I travel, she can’t. My question: is the 4HWW life incompatible with the idea of long-term life companionship? Have you been able to hack this? Seems like it would take a very, very special significant other to also execute along the 4HWW lines and embrace your new life with you. Do these women exist?

    Thanks for the book — changed my life.



    Hi Drew!

    Good question. 4HWW and long-term relationships are compatible, but relationships in general are about compromise. Travel is just one potential piece of 4HWW, and it might well be that you need to hold-off on too many round-the-world trips for a period or enable/convince your girlfriend to make some of the changes you have.

    In the end, the 4HWW creates time, and how you use it is up to you. It actually has the potential to save most relationships that are in danger of being lost, I believe.

    Hope that helps!


  37. Love the Bermuda Triangle analogy.

    I noted recently that it was more pleasant in the mosh pit of a Beastie Boys gig than in the rush hour on the London Underground; at the gig it was just as much a squeeze but at least we were all smiling.

    On the underground the following morning it was just me smiling. Smiling that I don’t have to go through that hell everyday living in a perpetual state of stress and exhaustion.

    How about a box of your finest homemade truffles as a prize? That would be fun.

  38. I am loving your book and have already been working on things to apply your insight into my life. Onto the prize, well I’d love to be able to spend the next year with my wife and my 2 year old daughter. I want to be a stay at home dad for a year while I plan my new life out of less work and more family time!

  39. What about a 4HWW package that includes:

    – meeting with Tim/initial consultation

    – 1 month follow-up, 3 month, & one year (or some type of schedule)

    – 1 year virtual assitant

    – plus other related services

    – might as well throw in a laptop

  40. For prizes, there are many…

    Cash is always good, even if its in the form of gift certificates for travel..

    maybe a travel with yourself, to learn new things.

    I need to think…im at work and therefore drained..

  41. First of all I want to say to Tim, your book is a great inspiration. Thank you for writing it. But, most of all I especially enjoy your blogs and the posts from other like-minded people. Obviously, not everyone is capable of opening their mind to the possibility and reality of the 4HWW. But for those who do, it is a life altering experience.

    I do have one criticism though, I have found the 4HWW to be geared toward people who live in a typical American city and follow a traditional life path of college, full-time job, family, house with mortgage and then retirement. I grew up in a small town in Hawaii where most people that I know do not follow a traditional life path. Hawaii and probably most of Polynesia is unique in that as a culture, work is not the primary focus of one’s day. Enjoyment, relaxation, relationships with family and friends are often more highly regarded than work. However, most people often make just enough to get by, never enough for travel or other pursuits. The 4HWW lifestyle is definitely for people who are ambitious and daring enough to make their dreams reality.

    The challenge for most people I know is figuring out how to create the income to afford to do what one truly loves. For me, its dancing, primarily Argentine Tango. Buenos Aires…I will return! Presently, almost every moment of my day is filled between regular job (saving money to start my freelance business), building my freelance business and practicing tango. The goal is more time and more money…thanks to your tips I know I can make it a reality.

    In regard to the prize for your next contest, you should let the winner decide what they would like to win (with a few limitations of course). Whomever wins the contest will probably know best what prize would be most appropriate.

    P.S. For Drew, 4HWW-minded women do exist!

  42. For extreme commuters, I offer this list.

    I originally created it for myself because I was tired of 1) trying to remember what to pack every time I had to go somewhere; and 2) finding out far from home that I had left something important behind. It took me several years and several dozen countries of trial and error and 4HWW lifestyle redesign to compile this list. I hope others find it beneficial.

    This list is not recommended for anyone looking to “get away from it all.� Rather, the opposite. I recommend it for anyone looking to get away from it all and still have “it all� with them, particularly for managing your muse during long-term travel. Where I loosely define long-term travel as anything requiring one to remain mobile or relocated for at least one month.

    The objective is simple: To achieve *sustainable*, long-term (even permanent) relocation and mobility.

    If you’ve grown bored of your home office in Piscataway and want to rent a loft with a view of the Seine for 9 months; a cottage in Inverness for a year; a stilted hut in the Maldives for a month; a chalet in Courchevel to ski all winter; then this list is for you.

    I realize that having a lot of stuff is anathema to most purist’s ideas about independent travel, but when one’s roller bag is really one’s home, office, and travelling companion rolled up into one, you’ll be liberated by this whole new level of mobility.

    As long as you have mental pressure in the back of your mind that “I’ll do that when I get back to the office� you’ll never experience true freedom. One of the keys to “mobility� is mental detachment. In a recent long-term trip, I had left my expense receipts (to have a client reimburse) in my home office; if I had brought them along (or better, done them before leaving; or even better; delegated the task) I would have experienced truer mental mobility.

    Believe it or not, everything mentioned in this list fits into 1 cabin-sized roller bag. I recommend the 20 inch Tumi black leather roller bag (model no. 92000). Virtually indestructible, purpose-built for business, and light. For European travel, do not buy anything over 20 inches. You are welcome to bring a laptop bag as well provided that it is small enough to be allowed in the cabin with the roller bag but I just carry my laptop in my main bag.

    I realize that a roller bag does not bring with it the romance and gravitas of a backpack, but after years of attempting to whisk internal or external framed backpacks undetected past “check-in�, I realized that the key to anonymity is the roller bag. When mobile, simplicity means reducing the possibility of exigency by keeping everything within arm’s reach of oneself. Nothing sucks the joy out of travel more than a lost bag.

    Once you get the hang of it, and most things are already in a designated “travel closet,� it should take you roughly 2 hours to pack for 1 to 12 months of continuous travel. Copy and paste (removing the parenthetic commentary) to your pda and build off this to create your own list over the years.

    Would love to hear other people’s suggestions. Safe journeys:


    book taxi to airport

    chk credit card and bank balances (liquidity is key)

    perform one 4HWW/GTD “weekly review� (for this, read “Four Hour Workweek� and “Getting Things Done� in tandem: use 4HWW for “effectiveness� strategies and GTD for “efficiency� strategies, letting 4HWW trump GTD where there are related recommendations)

    put presentations in usb

    give any friends, family, and employees itinerary & numbers (very selectively)

    email hosts/hotel and friends to meet at destination

    autoresponder (this should be up and running anyway)

    reconfirm flight

    put reconfirmation reminders for future flights in pda

    input contact info at destination in palm

    hotel booking

    inform neighbors


    credit cards (visa and amex)

    atm card

    valid passport (obviously)

    valid visa (not so obvious)

    check passport expiry (for multi-country travel, most airlines require at least 6 months validity; not at all obvious)

    check visa expiry

    valid ticket

    cash (don’t carry an external money bag; too easy a target; keep everything in an internal waistbelt or a leg belt that straps above the ankle assuming you wear pants when travelling)

    foreign currency

    driver’s license


    glasses (make a note of prescription numbers in your pda in case they break)

    extra business cards


    pda (for true disconnectedness, I recommend the Palm Z22, one of the last few available without a mobile)



    all purpose shoes (nice black leather sandals I’ve found can be used both formally and informally; take only the shoes on your feet; extra shoes take too much space)


    7 microfiber (or equally lightweight polyester) pants

    7 microfiber (or equally lightweight polyester) full-sleeve, collared shirts

    (For pants and shirts, 7 seems like a high number, but after years of trying to shave a few ounces in travel weight only to find myself waiting for laundered clothes every couple of days, 7 is the sweet spot; full-sleeve and collared shirts double for semi-formal occasions (available at EMS, Columbia or any decent camping store); carry at least two white and one dark shirts)

    7 socks (thin business socks take the least space)

    7 boxers (lightweight polyester unless you must have cotton)

    7 t-shirts (for sleeping and casual use)

    swimming shorts

    lightweight cloth sheet for sitting/sleeping/picnicking

    For cold weather destinations (just about everywhere in winter; don’t underestimate deserts even in the summer):

    2 sweaters (get only lambswool; very warm, light and packs small; Benetton and Brooks Brothers make durable ones)

    lightweight shell jacket with lots of pockets (do not get thick Gore Tex jackets unless you expect to trek; these don’t fold well; a simple dark colored, windbreaker works very well as both a rain jacket and a cold weather shell when layered with sweaters; wear this when travelling to save on packing space and get additional carrying capacity (translation: free weight allowance))

    warm wool skull hat




    toothpaste (travel size)

    sewing kit



    shaving cream (travel size)

    small foldable scissor (be prepared to give away at check-in)

    soap (travel size)

    cologne (very small bottle)


    global folder (this contains any paperwork that you think you might need: power of attorneys, birth certificates, bank statements, photocopies, etc; keep scans in your laptop; how often one needs to email a passport copy, etc. Surprisingly, I reduced my oh-so-important 24 inch filing cabinet down to 1 inch)

    laptop (the wafer thin 11 inch Sony Vaio TX-series is excellent; light enough for travel; large enough for work)

    projector (for people who need to make presentations the Toshiba tdp-ff1 is the ultimate road warrior; tiny, light, and effective)

    voip headset (without head band for compactness; this should double for mp3 player)

    a good book (the first thing I’m bound to leave behind to “be light� and the one thing I miss the most; “Arabian Sands� by Wilfred Thesiger is the ultimate travel book; in addition to light reading, as a Muslim I also bring the Quran. Bring something that keeps you spiritually connected for those contemplative moments that only high-quality travel affords)

    2 pens (Mitsubishi Uniball Eye is excellent for waterproof/fadeproof use)

    2 pencils


    30 sheets of white paper


    laptop power cable

    laptop extra battery

    Tumi international adaptor set

    internet cable

    pda cable (charge off the laptop to avoid having to bring a separate charger cable)

    house keys

    mp3 player


    recorder (I keep a tiny Olympus ws-200s digital recorder for those many times that I want to record something; a talk; an ode; a bird; my kids; I recommend getting a recorder that uses aaa batteries rather than usb charging)

    aaa batteries

    alarm clocks (nothing kills dreams like an alarm clock as they say, but sometimes you’ll be happy something is there to wake you up for your next flight on that 6 hour layover in Changi Airport; pda alarms are weak and I keep my mobile perpetually off)

    post-its (don’t ask; I just can’t live without them; if I’m going to create an “office space� in an apartment in tuscany for a month, there’s nothing like a post-it note to make you feel “centered�; clearly a leftover corporate fetish)

    binder clips/paper clips/rubber bands (for the truly “officeless� geek)

    Blackberry (kept off; if you can’t keep it off, don’t bring it; used *only* when Internet is not available; all reminder tones should be disabled),

    Blackberry charger (charge off the laptop to avoid having to bring a separate charger cable)

    can opener

    child’s fork/knife/spoon (usually allowable in cabin)



    call airport to check flight departure

    lube bicycle chain to prevent rusting

    put bicycle inside house/garage

    disconnect car battery

    cover car

    shut water main

    disconnect electricals

    disconnect gas/heating

    lock doors

    lift gaze to horizons

  43. For Maika and Tim:

    Hello Maika: I am a fellow tango dancer myself. IN fact, I am training to become a competitor. I wish you well in all of your pursuits. I believe that dreams can happen, but one has to be willing to take the risk. I am working on few projects that will generate the income so that I may concentrate primarily on becoming a strong competitor in ballroom dance.


    Your book is a huge eye opener. I always had a very strong passion for pursuing my dreams and a strong creative nature. I am one of those people who can not function correctly if I did not pursue my dreams. But, I always say that if a blind man can climb a mountain (that has been done), then people who are blessed with all of their bodily functions should be able to achieve their dreams and use their God-given passions and talents to live a fulfilled and joyous life. Work, to me, isn’t something to hate, but it is something for us to enjoy and give back to our communities/world. If we are not at our best and happy in working, then we aren’t really doing ourselves and the communities that we serve any good. Everyone owe themselves and others to use their passion and talent to obtain the appropriate line of work and enjoy it. To me there is nothing like seeing a person enjoy their “job” and spread that joy to the customers that they serve.


  44. I totally agree. I just simply quit my job. Nothing better than working from home.

    Seriously, the new way of thinking about your time is really important. Until people value the time when they are out of work, nothing much will happen.

    I know you are doing a great deal to help out and hopefully give people a new of thinking. Unfortunately, I think most people will buy your book and not read it.

    I think there is a statistic that only 10% of people read the books they buy. I guess the other 90% support the people who do find value in the books. Kind of a waste of paper. Oh well.

  45. I’ve recently had to take a full-time job which includes an hour and a half commute. Ouch! Before that I was working out of my house and I can definitely see and feel the difference it has made in my life. I’m practically gone from my house between 12 – 14 hours a day (Mon – Fri). I’m currently working on some financial goals that will allow me to kick the job habit and be more independent. Your articles here are a sure encouragement for those of us who want to break free from the status quo of work.

  46. Prizes?! Prizes that compliment 4 hour wks, outsourcing, and NR. Thinks you speak on, as a push/incentive for your readers to actually get started with their new lives.

    Definitely a roundtrip set of tickets to somewhere you’ve mentioned going to like, Vietnam, Argentina, Sanfrancisco, Hawaii. Free membership for 6 months to a year to one of the outsource websites you’ve mentioned or used. Free consultation for first 30 days from you, oh and free copies of your book of course!

    peace luv blessings


    (I also like the castle idea, how bout an island. lol)

  47. Lots of time management authors suggest using commuting (by that they usually mean driving) to learn via books on tape – something I’ve never gotten into, mainly because 1) I don’t commute, and 2) I think reading is much faster – can’t easily skim a CD!

    They also suggest thinking and planning while driving, but how do you do that without taking notes? I’m a writer, and note-taking is crucial to me. I don’t know…

    Best yet, set up your life so that you don’t commute. I have friends who commute 1 hour each way every work day. Ugh! You might find this article helpful:

    Workers’ Average Commute Round-Trip Is 46 Minutes in a Typical Day

  48. If the job doesn’t kill you the commute will. I drive 2 hours a day 5 days a week. In 4 weeks of work I will spend 40 hours driving. Expensive to say the least. Thanks for the article.

  49. Hello all,

    I’m reaching out to all in the virtual community,those who used to work in traditional formats or who are in the proces of designing there life, who may want to meet and network with likeminds. I know is a good place to do this but I’m posting here for others who have read Tim’s book and subscribe to that philospy of life. I live in the San Francisco California Bay Area in the EastBay region,but am very close to both San Fran and Silicon Valley.


    Tim H.

  50. Hi Tim H.,

    My husband and I and our 6 year old daughter live in Oakland. We are devouring the 4HWW book and have turned several like-minded friends on to it too. We could set up something on Meetup…you in?

  51. Pura vida – they do live it in C.R., don’t they?

    Commute for me is approx 1.5 hours one way(!)in NYC transit hell, thinking all the while “there must be a better way…”

    Interesting prize: There are art schools that do a few week-at-a-time courses: sculpture in Greece, painting in Italy…that would be my choice.



  52. Dear Timothy,

    Thank you for this book. I have read it from cover to cover. I even did the challenge you gave to group of students to find 3 celebrities in 72hours. My challenge was to find some pertinnent information that I have been searching for in 72 hours. I did it.

    I look to your book for inspiration as I am a Pilates teaacher desparately trying to bring into another career- life coaching. Sometimes I get frustrated, confused and discouraged. Your book inspired me to think more creatively.

    Thank You.

  53. My commute is usually the best part of my day because I do it on a bike. OK, I had to throw that out, but I do see the point. I could be spending a lot more time riding without an office that I have to be in.

  54. “People often fail to include the amount of time, wear and tear on the car, and loss of sanity into the allure of a high paying job, and how that high paying job once calculated hourly might not be better off than a fast-food worker.”

    I have never read a more true quote…mostly because i am living it. At only 22 yrs old im working a rather corporate job pulling 75k, yet i feel myself sucked completely dry, working odd, irregular hours, frequent meetings, living in my car most of the day, chained to my blackberry, basically a corporate puppet – while i try convincing non-union construction workers that the corporate monster that is dragging me down is the right choice for them to make….depressing!!!!

    my passion is bodybuilding, nutrition, and healthy living, i must tap into my creativity and break out of this! So glad to have read your book and im studying your blog!!!

    Take care!

  55. Tim,

    Just wanted to say that I feel I have read/listened to a few business books. By far your book is the best book and the only book or article for that matter that I feel is exactly how I want to live my life and how I want to get there thank you so munch for writing it and also having a great companion web site for ongoing updates and extra resources. I am looking hard for a muse I think I can use but soon I will fire my boss and eliminate the commute and do what I want. In the next 12 months I want to purchase a case of your books to give to friends/family so everyone can better there lives and do what they were intended to do. I can’t wait to have some time to track you dowm and shake your hand and thank you personally.

    Thank you again,

    Steven Willard

  56. I just finished moving and have been loving my new commute to work. I went from a 6 mile drive to a 3 mile drive but reduced the time from 45 minutes to 10 minutes from door to door. I feel like I now have part of my life back again…

    If you’re asking yourself where in the world does it take 45 minutes to go 6 miles, move to LA and drive from Burbank to West Hollywood. If you’re daring, do it when the Hollywood Bowl is in season.


  57. Hey Tim,

    Great post and as usual I’ve found that after trying some of these, the ones that are right for me, really do work well, so thanks for that.

    Just one quick ad is that, for the remainder of commute time that can’t be eliminated can be maximized in value by listening to educational and enlightening podcasts.

    I have one such podcast called The Auctionwally Show, that teaches folks how to identify values and worth of Antiques, collectible etc.

    I can’t believe the great niche content the is in the Podcasting arena, such as the one I found you on which is the with Jay & Sterling, I had to thank them for that.

    Take care


  58. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere I couldn’t get to by bike. Cycle in and not only is your journey time more consistent, but you’re saving the money on petrol and the gym fees you’d be paying if you wanted to keep fit.

    Public transport isn’t as reliable, but it still gives you time to read or write whilst someone else does the hard work of getting you there.

  59. Im inspired by you buddy

    Since reading the book last year I have

    cut my work time by 70% and booked 6 trips so far for 2008

    I also am re designing what I do to teach others HOW TO bust loose from the nonesense game.

    Its like saying how can I do a 10 hour work out in 2-3 hours each day….. and then do it in less than 2.

    Its Not been easy as I find it hard to break my old habits of I should be working hard…however Im getting there tim.

    Love to hook up with you some place and please come and say hello to syndey soon.

    Thanks mate

    Chris Wakeford (CW)

  60. Man! I am so spoiled! 5 minutes to work! If I would get off my lazy a**, I could ride a bike to work in about 15 or 20. Pretty cold for that here, though. I used to have a longer commute and found the stress was just not worth it. To me, it’s not insane to find a place to live closer to your job, if feasible (considering costs, crime, etc).

    Plus, when I watch the home shows on HGTV and see what folks in Cali spend on a tiny home (500k ), I can’t believe it! They could literally have a mansion here in the midwest (metro area of 500k to 1 million folks) for that. Or sell their home and pay cash for a home here and pocket the rest. (Yes, I am a part-time realtor – full time IT). I know it would be a huge culture shock, though. And as I said, it’s cold here now (28 degrees). Nevertheless, a long commute here is 30 minutes! Anyway, I sympathize with you all and applaud the creative ideas you’ve come up with to reduce the problems.

  61. Great article. I used to tire of the traffic so I would take the city bus which was only an extra 10 minutes. The way the driver led-footed it though, we had everyone in the floor before arrival…so walking became an option which took more time. I think if you can multi-task in the process of commuting or simply live your dream profession it helps. On relationships, try utilising the online chat feature, cell phone, or cyber date on off days.LOL Communication is key..

  62. I’ve moved since I first read this article. My commute went from 45-60 minutes (longer if I take the bus), to 15 minutes now. There is a big difference in the way I feel, and I’m saving somewhere between 5 to 10 hours a week. However, I really miss my old apartment; it was a lot more comfortable than my new place.

    I had doubts about the security of my job, but I was so stressed and tired from the commute I decided to bite the bullet and move. I have decided I will never again move for a job. Find a place you love to live and create the job you need (telecommuting, or create your own) to live there instead. Or, as others have suggested, find ways to use the time spent commuting (take public transit, listen to audio books, etc.).

  63. Before my divorce I spent about 4.5 hours each day commuting. I accepted this because 3.5 hours of that commute was sitting on a comfortable AmTrak train at a café car table doing freelancing work.

    That said, I still ended up divorced, and it’s absolutely because of the ridiculous, unbalanced, wage-slave lifestyle I was leading (there are ABSOLUTELY NO serious jobs for me in the Mid-Hudson Valley where I lived).

  64. Tim,

    I saw your video on Elance, bought your book, and now I consider it one of the biggest life changing events of my life. I did all the work sheets in your book, and worked everything out, but I have a problem. I got a job with a great SEO firm in Atlanta, one of the best. I am a project basedworker and have VPN access to my computer at work. I am fully capable of working from home except for one thing: I have only been here 2 months and am very nervous about approaching management regarding telecommuting. Should I continue to wait another few months or a year before asking for telecommuting? I usually complete a week of projects in two days and know I could get it down to one day if given the opportunity. Should I just suck it up and allow them to invest more into me and make myself more valuable before I approach management regarding this? Thank you for all of your wonderful help, and I’d love to hang out with you some time!

    Take it easy,


  65. Tim,

    I have a question for you. I am new at a large internet company. I have been here for 2 months, and I informed the managers who hired me that after I get experience here I anticipate working remotely a few days per week.

    When should I ask them formally about working remotely?

    Secondly, I work on projects all day, and when i get way ahead on my list of projects (1-2 weeks) what should I do with my spare time here at my office?

    I am not allowed to just leave when I get done with my projects, instead they try to move things around so I get more projects. I am currently attempting to learn as much technical stuff as I can in my industry to become more valuable, but when should I pull the trigger and attempt to work remotely a few days per week?

    Thank you!


  66. My commute is 45 minutes both ways. I haven’t reduced my commute, but I did find a way to make my travel time more productive. Before I was pulling my hair out listening to the same old talk radio show every morning. Now, I subscribed to an audiobook rental service, similar to Netflix. In the past five months I’ve listened to 20 books that I otherwise wouldn’t have had time to read this year. In my opinion, having an audiobook queue is far superior to morning talk radio and commercials!

    This is a great way to spend time if you must travel.

  67. Lately I have made a commitment to get better at qualifying my leads. I am auctioneer who goes on a lot of house calls to view estate merchandise.

    By coming up with a revised list of questions, I’ve learned to get much better at vetting the potential clients to learn if they have what I’m interested in, and if they are really ready to do business, or if they are just throwing out feelers.

    A wasted trip saved is a 100% savings of time and fuel.

  68. The non-commute thing only works for office workers.

    People who work in retail or manufacturing or health care cannot telecommute. I think that those who perform actual labor in this world are grossly underpaid.

    It sort of upsets me to hear about an office worker complain about a commute when there are people who work with sewage and do dirty jobs that really keep this world going. But when you have a boring office job, complaints come with the territory. Those of us who do real work do not have time to gripe about things.

  69. I am aware that working remotely will save me all kinds of hard carsh–gas, car upkeep, daycare (it’s more than my mortgage monthly!), dry cleaning….but I did a little “my time is money” calculation to see how much my almost-six figure corporate job actually costs me in lifestyle potential. Following Tim’s formula in the book, I am worth $45/hr. at present, so…

    I commute 35 minutes each way from my home, and that’s not counting taking the kids to daycare first. So let’s make it 60 minutes each way (the sitter lives 5 miles north and then I backtrack south again and then another 20 miles to my office). That scales up to 16 days of time in the car annually — 480 hours at $45/hr = $21,600 in “my time” that I could dedicate to other income-generating activity if I didn’t have to commute.

    I have to be at work at 8:30, but the kids don’t start school until 9:30, but to get us all where we’re going, we’re up at 6:30. If I worked from home, I could put the kids on the bus at 9:00 in front of the house and get working in my bunny slippers (I do have some). That’s 2.5 hours each morning = 450 hours per school year = $20,000.

    So just with those two time factors–commute time and get-up and ready time–my $99,000/year job “costs” me nearly half of that!

    @yadgyu–Yes, I get that Tim’s approach does not really work for folks who must physically be at their jobs to perform it–retail, trades, civil service–and I appreciate all that you do…but as a single mom of four kids with a soul-sucking corporate job, seeing the hidden costs of “workin’ for da man” in my own life has been a real eye opener and has prompted me to take action. After bonuses in March, I plan to propose a contract arrangement at 24-hours per week, virtually eliminating the above soft-dollar costs and significantly reducing certain hard-dollar costs associated with commute and childcare. Just the reduction in hard expenses alone allows me to work 16 fewer hours per week and take back some of my life for myself and my kids (and that even includes my buying my own health and life insurance). And my company will benefit from eliminating an FTE and the corresponding benefits and costs. Win-Win!!!

  70. ” After bonuses in March, I plan to propose a contract arrangement at 24-hours per week, virtually eliminating the above soft-dollar costs and significantly reducing certain hard-dollar costs associated with commute and childcare. Just the reduction in hard expenses alone allows me to work 16 fewer hours per week and take back some of my life for myself and my kids”

    Kath, I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon, but working from home is grossly overrated. You are not going to get any more work done from home and your kids will probably irritate you.

    I just do not see what the real difference in location will do for most. You still have to work for a living. Sitting at home or another remote location is not going to decrease your work load by very much. You will probably be more likely to decrease in your performance due to outside influences.

    We all need to find ways to NOT work.

  71. Quick question: I work as an editor at an “up and coming” publishing house. I have really been pushing leadership to allow us to work from home, if even for a few days out of the week.

    Their biggest argument is that according to some un-cited “tax law,” they can’t let us work from home due to us not being classified as actual employees or as free-lancers.

    Now, I’m no expert, but if I am a full-time, salary employee, how can my classification change if I happen to work from home for a few days out of the week? I would be most grateful for any insight or legal advice regarding the “tax laws” they keep bringing up.

  72. Tim,

    I recently asked to increase a remote work agreement from 1/2 day a week to a full day. My manager agreed with all the things you outlined – my proven increased work productivity, company’s results-oriented culture – but still shot me down. The reason being: HIS management’s traditional perspective about jr. analysts. I have been at the company for two years now. Other analysts who wfh once a week have been at the company for at least a year longer, and have longer industry experience. Yet, I have produced higher quality work and been on more projects than anyone else.

    How do I help him manage upwards to dispell these old school discriminations and align with my results-driven, proven data?

  73. I’m a surgeon, so how can I commute (or apply this principle) to my life?

    I’ve been struggling with a problem for a few years that relates to this article and would love to get feedback from Tim or any insightful readers of this blog.

    I’m a surgeon and I have a very good job (good money, like the people, etc), but I live about 1.5 hours from my office and surgery center where I have to operate. I’ve looked for similar jobs in my town, but none exist. I’ve considered opening a new practice in my home town, but a new practice would take years to grow and in the current market, may be financially prohibitive.

    So the question is …. what’s the most creative/productive thing I can do with my time while commuting? Is it better to spend the money on a car service/driver, so I can rest, read, etc? Any other more creative thoughts??

    Much thanks,


  74. Friday afternoon before the end of the day at work I approached my supervisor about working from home a couple days a week, basing my technique on the example in the 4hww book. Our company has a form that needs to be filled out to get long term remote work authorized. So my supervisor said she would talk to her boss about it and see what could be arranged.

    so, my question is: What is the best strategy for following up on this without shooting myself in the foot?

  75. As an employee, commuting is a consideration. With my experience, living near the workplace is better than traveling from north to south. You can avoid being late during mornings and you don’t worry going home so late if there are overtimes, since the house you live with is near. You will not be feeling so tired after the day’s work for it consume energy just by traveling from the workplace to your house everyday. When I am looking for a job, I always consider the area or the address of my prospect company.

  76. Jeffrey W. Braunstein is mentioned in the 4 hour work week book, when I googled him he died at the age 35 tragically. Does any one how he died or if he died in South America?


  77. I’ve been able to work from a home office, and direct my small business from there for the past 4 years. I’d not considered quantifying the cost savings of all those commutes that I no longer have to make, but it’s a cool idea!

    I value not having to spend the time in the car to and from work a lot. And I love that I am able to visit family members on the other coast, and in Europe, any time I want … have laptop, can work from anywhere.

    That said, there is a real disadvantage to this lifestyle: it can get lonely. Practically all my daily interactions with people are via email or phone. None of the regular presence of people around me that I had in a corporate office life – and some of those colleagues and staff became very close and dear friends. It took me a long time to recognize that I not only missed people around me, but that it had a negative impact on my happiness. I ended up planning getting together with friends as part of my standard to do list… must have at least 2 events set up per week, else I get crabby.

    1. Hey Maui Girl,

      Congrats on running your home biz! What kind of biz is it ?

      Also I understand the people isolation situation, I went thru it as well. I have an email with some good resources that helps with that, if you want I can send to you just email me at



  78. I could not relate any more to this post. I currently commute the draining “Bermuda” triangle of the bay. I live in San Jose, work in Pleasanton and my boyfriend lives in Daly City.

    My dream? To work remotely from Hawaii and live on the island.

    Thanks for the post Tim!