What is Lifestyle Design?

One of the main topics I’ll be covering on this site is Lifestyle Design. So what is it? In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss describes lifestyle design as a way to structure your life so you enjoy it right now instead of waiting till retirement.

Tim discussed how there’s a lot of misinformation about wealth. His ideas challenge the premise that you need millions in the bank before you get to fulfill your dreams. The idea behind lifestyle design is to stop putting off your goals. With a little bit of creativity and planning you can create ANY reality… starting today


Now I’ll admit that lifestyle design is a crazy concept for some. It seemed like a wacky idea to me at first. So in this post I’m going to cover the basics of lifestyle design and hopefully show that it’s something that most people can do in their lives.

Step #1- Define Your Ideal Life

You’ve probably heard this question before… “If you had millions of dollars what would you do with your free time?”

The answer you give is supposed to show how you should live your life. So imagine what it’s like to have unlimited financial resources. How would you live your life? Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

Lifestyle design is about imagining your perfect scenario then making it a reality. But before you can do that, you have to decide on WHAT you want to actually do. So…the first step is to define your ideal life.

Sit down and visualize your dream life. Picture in your mind how you would live day to day. What would make you feel fulfilled? There are no wrong answers with this exercise. Whatever is meaningful to you is the right answer. So I can’t tell you want to put here. Only you can.

I discovered a lot of things about my ideal existence when I did this exercise. I realized I want to spend a lot of my time travelling the world. I also found out I want to spend time training for and completing physically challenging events like an Ironman race (next October!!!). Finally I came to the realization that I like where I live…so I don’t necessarily have to travel around the world to live a great life.

To turn this dream into a reality you need money. In the next step we’re going to cover where you can get it.

Step #2- How to Make Money Without Being a Slave to The Man

I live in the real world like you. I know that money is something we all worry about on a day-to-day basis. It’s one thing to say ‘go have fun and live your life.’ It’s another to tell you how you’re going to pay for your dream life.

In this step we’re going to cover the idea of money. Unfortunately this is a topic that requires its own post. So I’ll do my best to cover two different ways to make money while you’re off living your life. The key here is to create a financial situation where you’re not stuck in the same location working 40+ hours a week. You want money. But you also want freedom.

Choice A- Restructure your job

CAVEAT: Before you read this section I want to be upfront about something. It’s been seven years since I worked at a ‘real’ job. And even when I did have a steady 9 to 5 gig, I wasn’t that good at it. I won’t pretend to know what life is like in the corporate world. So take this advice with a grain of salt. I’m just one person with one person’s viewpoint.

The first option you have when it comes to “how to make money” is to restructure your job. The truth is many people are in employment situations where they a lot more freedom than they realize. If you sit down and examine your job, you’d realize that most of the activities you do on a day-to-day basis don’t require your physical presence. You could probably do just as good of a job thousands of miles away from the office.

With this option you negotiate a restructure of your job. Here you’ll show that you could do a better job away from the office than you could do sitting in a cubicle. The trick is to show that your productivity will increase away from your employment location. During the negotiation sessions with your boss you demonstrate that the company will benefit by allowing you to telecommute.

Now this is a very brief description of what to do. I would definitely recommend reading Tim’s book for a detailed action plan on how to restructure your job.

Choice B- Create Automated Systems

I’m not going to lie here… This is the path that I chose and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who doesn’t want to live a ‘cubicle dweller’ life. Personally I couldn’t imagine being forced to go to the same place every single day. Sounds like hell to me.

To make lifestyle design really work, you need to create an automated (or semi-automated) system for making money. With this option you create a process for generating income. Then you take yourself out of this system and let it run with minimal supervision. You can do this by setting up the process, outsourcing tedious tasks, and empowering your workers to make decisions on their own. Your only job is to make sure the process runs like a well-oiled machine.

Again, this is another concept that seems weird to many people. “Making money without working?!?! That’s not possible.” Honestly I’m here to tell you that it IS possible. But it does require some effort, some planning, and a lot of tweaking.

To illustrate this concept, I’ll briefly throw out some figures from my own online businesses:

1) I run an online newsletter which generates $6000 per month. I spend about five hours a week creating content and testing the results I get from the previous month.

2) I also own an information product which brings in about $3000 per month. I spend a whopping total of ONE hour a week answering questions, emailing affiliates, and processing the occasional refund.

3) Finally I have $500-1000 coming in from various mini-systems I created years ago. I do nothing to monitor them. The money comes in with no effort on my part.

To be perfectly candid, a lot of these systems were the results of MANY weeks and months of hard work. They weren’t ‘get rich quick’ solutions. It took a lot of time and effort to create these systems. The good news is the process of setting them up have given me a ton of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t with Internet marketing. So it makes it a lot easier to create the next system I dream up.

Also I want to point out that this isn’t a ton of money. I’m not sitting on a beach somewhere sipping a piña colada. The only difference between me and a lot of people is I have an income coming in which doesn’t require a monkey suit or constant supervision. I get to live my life on my terms without a job.

There is a lot more I could write about this process. So I’m going to save it for future posts. I do promise that I’m going to give everything I know about creating automated systems for income.

Step #3- Location Independence

This step is part of the process for making money. The reality is the world is full of opportunities for generating an income which don’t require your physical presence. I do the same thing sitting here in a Starbuck’s Coffee in Lakewood, New Jersey that I did when I was in Bolzano, Italy over the summer.

The key to lifestyle design is being able to generate income AND be location independent. You can’t have one without the other. Sure you can have tons of money, but it’s worthless if you’re stuck in a corporate job. And you can have lots of freedom, but it won’t matter if you live your life scrounging for enough cash to pay for a meal at McDonald’s.

Location independence is about leveraging technology to work from any spot in the world. Depending on the nature of your income stream you’ll need certain items to control your processes. This can include things like a laptop, Skype software, wireless Internet access and access to email.

One of the things I took from Tim’s book is his idea of doing ‘test-runs.’ For most people it’s pretty scary to plan a three month excursion away from a job. Instead of doing this, he recommends spending a week away from your job and seeing what happens.

Now this does NOT mean you just stop going to your job. You’ll get fired if you do this. What I mean is to use technology to see what happens when you’re not physically present at your employment location. You do this to see what happens when you’re not there. Did anyone freak out? Were you able to exceed expectations with your job? What tools could make your life easier?

With location independence you slowly expand your comfort zone. You increase the time you spend away from doing work and adjust to the results you see. My advice is to be very careful with this step. You want to get away from your job. But you don’t want to lose it in the process.

Step #4- Eliminate Unimportant & Stressful Barriers

To design your perfect life you must be willing to eliminate anything that’s holding you back. This can include possessions, certain personal relationships, and habits which only attract negative energy.

First off, most people have way too many possessions. When you really look at what you own you’ll probably realize that most of what you have can be tossed or given away. Instead of stressing about a where to put all your stuff solve this problem by getting rid of the things that don’t bring value to your life. For instance, if you haven’t used or worn a particular shirt in the past year then it’s probably okay to chuck it.

Next, it’s important to note that many personal relationships might be sucking the life out of you. It’s been said that who you are as a man is the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you around quality people? Or do they bring you down? Only YOU can answer this question. To plan your perfect life sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice a few personal relationships.

Finally you should focus on removing ‘negative energy’ situations. This can include anything that makes you angry, depressed, or simply tired. Your job is to identify the things that fill you with bad emotions then be proactive about getting rid of them. It’s okay to be selfish here. If something doesn’t make you happy then find a way to remove it from your life.

Once you eliminate obstacles from your life, it’s time to…

Step #5- GO, GO, GO

This is the easiest part of lifestyle design, yet it’s also the most fear inspiring. Once you’ve designed your perfect life, created a location independent situation with money coming in, and removed obstacles from your life; your final goal is to start living your dreams. The problem is many people get to this point and don’t go any further.

On a personal note, I’m guilty of not living the exact life I want. I have money coming in that’s semi-automated and I’ve removed a lot of negative energy from my life. The problem is I keep coming up with excuses for why I can’t do the things I want. Sure I’ve travelled a bit in the last few years but it’s not at the level that I once envisioned. So one of my goals for 2010 is to expand my comfort zone and start checking things off my ‘bucket list.’

Don’t worry if you find yourself in a similar situation. We all have moments where it’s hard to take that crucial first step. I recommend you look at some of the smaller items on your ‘ideal life’ list and do these first. Then as you become more comfortable with this process you move on to the more challenging, but life defining experiences.


Well, this blog post is a lot longer than I thought it would be. Originally I meant it to be about a 400 word overview on lifestyle design. It’s now at the 2,000+ word mark. So…I hope you got something from my ‘diarrhea of the word processor.’

For more information on this subject I definitely recommend reading The 4-Hour Workweek. Yes, if you purchase it through this link I’ll earn some money. But it’s like 40 cents. Furthermore, I’ve given this same recommendation to any friend who is interested in entrepreneurship or getting more out of life. I would say it’s a book that’s completely changed the way I look at the world. Maybe you’ll feel the same way.

Finally I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already implemented lifestyle design into your reality. What are doing with your life? How are you generating money? What are some obstacles you’ve encountered? Leave a comment below and tell me your experiences.

Take Action. Get Results.

3 thoughts on “What is Lifestyle Design?”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I just got into reading the 4-Hour Workweek and well, I did a little snooping around your site because I wanted to know how you have put your income on autopilot and enjoy the lifestyle traveling the world without constraints. Furthermore, I have a lot to learn in terms of automation and I believe in the next few years, I’ll be seeing more of that coming in. It’s all a matter of processing and testing as you say.

    I really admire that you’re sharing with us all these great thoughts of yours on how you have automated your life. Impressive figures too! Now I have to double/triple/quadruple my reading in order to see what I have missed. However, your posting frequency is pretty much like myself, on a daily basis and what’s more, you plan to increase it! Loading the RSS …. much props and RESPECT!

    Talk soon!

    • Thu,

      Nice, you found one of my oldest posts here. Nice to know they get read some too. At that point I wasn’t even posting daily and only “thinking” about a long trip to Europe (which I am nearly done with now). 4 hour workweek is a really great read. I hope you enjoy it. I am not sure it is all as “easy” as some people believe and it is important to spend more time creating “new” projects after the old ones are passive, but still even though my earning have decreased a little while not tending to them enough while on my trip I really am doing on 4 hours a week on the things that make me money (a hell of a lot more on the blog that I am trying to grow)

      Like I said in this post, and kinda brought up again in todays post, the important part is automation and outsourcing. If you treat it like a business your job is not to do it all, but to do what you are really good at and hire people to do the rest. I don’t have full time people working under me, but I do outsource a fair share of stuff. If I did it all myself I could never do it all.

      • Hi Steve,

        The keywords here which have stood out is OUTSOURCING and consistently creating NEW projects which will bring in that passive income. Starting out, one project is already overwhelming but learning how to leverage that out to others is also a skill to try. Who knows, maybe Fivrr might be worth a try for that. 🙂

        Overall, the 4 Hour Workweek I know isn’t going to be easy but it’s good to know that someone whom I’m communicating with has actually pursued and accomplished it. That’s an eye-opener Steve. Very inspiring. Moreover, you don’t know what that means to me.

        If you can do it, I can! It takes one to believe and unleash that over. Thus, within only a short amount of time following you, reading your posts, you are an inspiration and continue to be. You have been a valuable part of the Mastermind group and even though you don’t call yourself a guru or such, you are blazing a path that eventually helps bloggers like myself believe in the existence of actual passive income. I am constantly amaze at your giving content.

        So more power for you there and also much more stronger presence for you to have online for readers like myself to constantly follow and string to your every words. 🙂

        Now to go back to those info-products lessons I’ve missed and even your blogging success lessons and more … oh my.

        Talk soon!

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