The Rule of Four

I subscribe to a pretty good variety of channels on YouTube. I watch creative vlogs, comedy pieces, car reviews, political explanations, talk show highlights… the list goes on. Recently, I came across a YouTube channel mostly hosted by a young urban professional talking about her financial strategy and how she’s able to maintain a fairly high standard of living in an expensive city. She talks about her budget management, like the superfluous things she’s cut from her spending.

In one video, she explores a concept called the Rule of Four. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t have anything to do specifically with managing your finances and keeping your spending under control. Instead, it is more of a general guiding principle for how you should be living your life in an effort to maximize your output while minimizing your stress.

Can you guess what it is?

You’ve likely heard this repeatedly before. By far the most valuable resource that you have is time, because it is absolutely non-renewable. You only have 24 hours in a day and regardless of how you choose to spend those 24 hours, they’re gone when the clock strikes midnight and you’ll never get them back again… until we figure out what Doc Brown was doing with that Delorean.

And this is true. Time will be your most valued resource and that’s why time freedom is one of the biggest benefits to making money online. It’s even better when you can effectively remove yourself from your online business so it continues to make money even when you’re not there actively doing anything. That’s the power of passive income. But I digress.

In addition to time, though, you’ll find that another hugely valuable resource is your attention or your mind share. Whatever you want to call it, you can only focus on so many things at a time. You can’t possibly be your best self at everything when you’re trying to juggle too much. Everything will suffer when you stretch yourself too thin. This is where the Rule of Four comes in play.

The idea is simple. Choose just four things that are important to you at this point in your life and focus on only those four things. Discard everything else and recognize that they are substantially lower priority. This isn’t just about work or your online ventures. It’s about the entirety of your life.

If you want your Internet startup to be successful, while simultaneously working on improving your health, growing your personal blog, and spending quality time with your significant other, your social life will have to suffer. You probably shouldn’t think about picking up a new hobby like photography or vintage cars either. Keep it to just four things.

It’s important that you are truly and fully honest with yourself here. If “work” really consists of more than one thing — like running an e-commerce store, growing a YouTube channel, writing marketing materials, and meeting with overseas suppliers on a regular basis — then it may need to take up more than just one of your four slots.

We want to do it all, because we want to have it all. We want to have the hugely successful blog to go along with a profitable affiliate marketing business, a popular vlog, an online coaching business, a collaborative podcast, and multiple best-selling books… but that’s not realistic, especially if you’re working toward a goal of sustainable passive income. That’s not the dot com lifestyle.

Concentrate, automate, then diversify. And keep it to no more than four things at a time.

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