2 Concepts from The 4- Hour Workweek that Event Managers Can Apply to Their Trade

By Cameron Ungar posted 05-15-2018 12:34


I read… err listen to a lot of books.  For the last few years, my Southern California lifestyle has blessed me with three hours of “silent, sustained reading time” while I sludge through the Interstate 5/ 805 merge on my daily commute.  That routine drudgery turned my car into a classroom, an incubator and a therapist office. I’ve gone from Zero to One and from Good to Great.  I have learned How to Win Friends and Influence People while mastering The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.  But perhaps the most impactful lessons learned from my driver’s seat education came from Tim Ferriss in The 4- Hour Workweek.  The teachings here were transformative for me.  I come back to this book time and again when I need clarification or inspiration.  The 4 Hour Workweek was a key motivation for growing Stylehawk Event Services beyond freelance work.

What is so brilliant about The 4- Hour Workweek is that it challenges the habits of a traditional work culture and reveals truths that we all see and experience but fail to acknowledge.  More than that though, the book provides key insights on maximizing productivity and prioritizing time as a resource. As event and venue professionals, we have an acute sense of time.  The venue calendar is a perishable resource and each turn of the clock is a revenue opportunity lost. Event professionals must manage priorities in a dynamic setting while always working on strict deadline.  In this time sensitive environment, it is important to be effective rather than efficient. Ferriss defines effectiveness as “doing the things that get you closer to your goals,” and efficiency as “performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible.”  Therefore, “doing something unimportant well does not make it important” and “requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.” Unfortunately, “being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default model of the universe.” With a push towards effectiveness, The 4- Hour Workweek introduces two powerful concepts that have tremendous relevance to event professionals, Pareto’s Law and Parkinson’s Law.

Pareto’s Law, the 80/20 Principle

Around the turn of the 20th century, Vilfredo Pareto, a Swiss economist, included a law of income distribution in his work cours d’economie politique.  According to Ferriss, the “80/20 Principle” Pareto described can be summarized as “80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs” or “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.”  This is an important concept for event and venue managers to understand. In an environment where everything is on deadline, focusing on the actions that are going to most directly yield the desired results is critical.  Successful event execution often comes down to time and money. Therefore, maximizing effectiveness increases available time and thus reduces financial consequence.  Event management is task specific, but it is also collaborative.  A way to improve effectiveness is to “emphasize strengths, don’t fix weaknesses.”  Event professionals must apply energies to the 20% of actions that will have the greatest impact on the event objectives and delegate the 80% of activities to team members who can apply their strengths in their respective areas of expertise.  This strategic approach will result in better events, lower costs and higher revenue yields. There is no room for a “results- by- volume” approach in this industry.  Event managers are going to put their time in when it comes to executing the production schedule. In this industry especially, we cannot waste energy on the planning and administrative side because we are married to the outdated convention of a 9- 5 workday.

Parkinson’s Law

The second law Ferriss introduced in The 4- Hour Workweek is Parkinson’s Law.  We are all familiar with the concept.  Parkinson’s Law “dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.”  Ferriss calls this the “magic of an imminent deadline.” Big events get bigger in perception with the luxury of time and operational miracles are pulled off daily by event professionals around the country in the absence of time.  A 7pm tip off is going to happen at 7pm and one way or another, we get the doors open when they need to be. This is evidence that event managers are skilled at utilizing Parkinson’s Law. So often though, when going through the venue sourcing process, venues refuse event opportunities because a request came in with “short notice.”  This is an opportunity cost for the venue and a real challenge for event promoters. A venue manager who has mastered the skill of communication and delegation while also understanding Parkinson’s Law can reap significant financial incentive by taking advantage of these revenue streams.

Event and venue management is an incredible career that requires its professionals to have a diverse set of skills.  It challenges us to think in logical, linear ways while also requiring operational creativity. You get to plan and then you get to react.  It requires people skills and hard skills. It takes stamina and patience and a tremendous amount of internal motivation. These things will not change, but we can get more effective.  It is important to think about the way we do our job and ask why things are done a certain way. If results are subpar, challenge the status quo. As Tim Ferriss says, “different is better when it is more effective and more fun.”




05-22-2018 15:14

Thanks Leslie... I think you will enjoy it.  Interesting and forces you to look at work habits and constructs in different ways!  I'll look into some more reading on Pareto's Principle... it is fascinating stuff.

05-17-2018 19:18

Great article.  Can't wait to read the book or listen to it in the car.  I've read a number of books on the Pareto Principle, and that too is a must-read.