How To Think Like Tim Ferriss To Live A Good Life

Who doesn’t know Tim Ferriss?

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.

You may be a true fan of him. Maybe you’ve just heard of him. Or maybe you’ve never heard this name before.

In any case, here’s a quick introduction to get started.

Tim Ferriss is the host of his famous podcast — The Tim Ferriss Show where he interviews success people from different fields. He asks them great questions and breaks down their success into bite size chunks which we can take away into our lives.

He is also the author of the books — 4-hour Workweek, 4-hour Chef, 4-hour Body, Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors.

4-hour Workweek is about lifestyle design and location independence. 4-hour Chef is about learning smarter, and 4-hour Body is about hacking the body.

Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors have a different theme. They are about getting advice, tips, tools, tactics, routine or inspiration from successful people in different fields.

Tim Ferriss is a self-proclaimed “human guinea pig” which means he believes in self-experimentation to test out assumptions and find out what most people could never imagine.

He has inspired millions of people to pursue their dreams and become lifelong learners. He continues to grow as he teaches us to be healthy, wealthy and wise.

His mission is to create an army of thinkers who can become better than him. If the student becomes better than the master, the master becomes successful.

Two of his major guiding principles are:

  1. “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek.
  2. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.

Therefore,

Hard Choices + Good Questions = Good Life

Making Hard Choices

What if making hard choices were easy? That’s a type of question he would ask himself.

So, let’s consider it.

Hard choices are not hard by nature. They look hard to us because of fear, uncertainty, doubt or lack of clarity.

The antidote is a simple exercise which he refers to as “Fear-setting”.

In the exercise, he asks us to take a sheet of paper and make three columns titled “Define”, “Prevent” and “Repair”.

In the first column, you list out every fear you have that stops you from living the life you want. In the next column, write everything you can do to prevent the situation from happening. In the last column, write everything you can do to mitigate the damage if the worst-case scenario came true.

On the next page, switch sides and write everything good that can come out from taking the risk.

The last step is the most important step of the exercise. On the third page, determine the cost of inaction. How would your life look like in the next months or years if you didn’t take the action?

Consider every aspect such as emotional, physical and financial when you think about the cost of inaction.

The purpose of the exercise is to take a microscopic view of the situation. Most people don’t make the hard choices because they are paralyzed by fear.

When we define fear and capture it on a piece of paper, it doesn’t look that intimidating anymore. Many times, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Courage comes from clarity. The exercise helps us to switch from the fear mindset to the possibility mindset.

Most of our thoughts are fear based:

What if I go broke?

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I miss the opportunity?

What if I lose my girlfriend or boyfriend?

What if I get rejected?

When you define your fears on a paper, you don’t dwell on them any longer. Now, your mind is free to think about your untapped capabilities and the new possibilities. You ask bigger questions:

What if I change the rules?

What if I develop a new skill?

What if there’s a better opportunity coming my way?

What if I’m meant to do something greater?

What if I just start?

Asking Good Questions

You are only limited by the questions you ask yourself. Poor quality questions give poor results. Good questions can change your life.

The purpose of asking good questions is not to get an answer every time. But, it’s to explore the possibilities and expand your imagination.

By asking good questions, you train your mind to think in the ways that others might not have considered before.

So how do you ask good questions, you may ask?

The answer — question assumptions and be specific if you can.

Tim questions the status quo and the norms that society assumes as rules to live by.

Most people work 9–5 jobs, hate their lives and wait for the retirement to enjoy their lives. But he read Vagabonding, questioned assumptions and created a guide for a regular person who is stuck in a traditional lifestyle. That book became The New York Times Bestseller — The 4-Hour Workweek.

Look everything with skepticism and be open-minded. As a bonus, you can add specificity to your questions. Being specific gives you the context and constraints which sparks creativity and helps you form a plan of action. It also helps to deconstruct the answer which may lead you to find alternative solutions.

Here are some questions he asked himself that changed Tim’s life with my remarks in the brackets:

  • What if I did the opposite (questioning assumption) for 48 hours? (being specific)
  • What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million (being specific)? What’s my real Target Monthly Income? (questioning assumption)
  • If I could only work 2 hours per week (being specific) on my business, what would I do?
  • What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? (questioning assumption)
  • Do I need to make it back the way I lost it? (questioning assumption)
  • What if I could only subtract to solve problems? (questioning assumption)

Asking good questions is not an easy task. It comes with practice. To get better, increase the number of questions you ask yourself and identify how much you’re questioning assumptions or being specific.

Quantity brings quality. And to further improve the quality of your questions, reflect to make constant improvement.


Asking good questions is about thinking and making hard choices is about doing. Both are essential ingredients to live the life you want.

If you keep thinking, there will be no progress. And if you keep taking action without thinking, you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere.

Keep the cycle of ‘making hard choices’ and ‘asking good questions’ running.

Now, It’s your turn.

What hard choices will you make? It could be a big life decision or small daily actions.

What questions can you ask yourself that will make the biggest impact on your life?

Always be questioning.

Always be experimenting.

Always be learning.

Always be evolving.

Success is a result of daily actions…

Design your daily checklist for high performance and success. Click here to download the free PDF file.

Advertisements

Why Learning More About Self Improvement May Not Change Your Life

Ever since I was out of school, I fell in love with learning.

At school, they forced me to study what I had zero interest in but when I was out of school, I could finally learn and study what I wanted to.

One of the subjects I started learning was self improvement (self help, personal growth, personal development, or whatever you want to call it).

Soon enough, I knew I could never leave the pursuit of growth and peace. Now, it’s part of who I am.

I wasn’t an avid reader or a fan of writing since childhood. Self improvement is how I got into both — reading and writing.

Learning is fun. It can even be addictive. There was a time when I spent my entire day learning about self improvement.

But then, I realized…

Self improvement doesn’t happen in front of a device or a book.

You can spend your entire life learning, forming principles, and adopting mindsets but it’s of no use if you don’t use the knowledge to improve yourself, your life or others.

I have hundreds of articles, books, podcasts, courses, and videos to consume in my ‘saved for later’ list.

I will not consume all the items on the list. Who am I kidding? I can use any learning hack or principle to learn faster and better but I will never check off every item on the ever-expanding list.

So, I am letting it go knowing that many of the saved material will die with me. But it doesn’t mean I will ever stop learning. I love to learn.

Learning is part of living a good life but so is actually living it. You must give equal importance to practicing and training if you want to change your life.

If you keep learning more without training, it can hurt your progress because when you learn too much in a day, your brain can’t process the information. It loses focus, and it tricks you into thinking that you’re improving your life.

Turning Knowledge Into Wisdom

When it comes to self improvement, I see so many overlaps. A few key principles are repeated over and over again. It’s not actually bad to remind yourself of the principles from different perspectives but you must also spend time training yourself if you really want to improve.

You don’t always need big life experiences to train yourself. Every day is an opportunity for you to train. The daily small actions and choices you make define how well you’re implementing your learnings.

This is how you learn concepts of self improvement by heart:

  1. Learn
  2. Practice (intentional)
  3. Test (unexpected)

We are good at saving articles and taking notes. But we need to spend equal (if not more) time practicing and training.

Learning is easy. It’s comfortable. You get the instant gratification of thinking about improving your life. But in reality, your life doesn’t improve unless you do something about it.

To practice, you need focus. You can’t practice anything without concentrated effort. And to get focused, you need intention and tracking in place.

For instance, if you want to improve your mental stability, you must track your emotions, mood, thoughts and your reactions at least for a few days or weeks.

At the time of tracking, don’t judge yourself. You are human and you will make mistakes even after studying those huge books about the same topic.

Training Is Where The Magic Happens

Once you’re more aware of your results through tracking them, take out time to reflect on it. List all the reasons why you fail, why you succeed, what you could do better next time, and what new obstacles can come your way.

After you’ve practiced enough times, you will notice a difference in you. But then, the real training happens in the discomfort zone when life throws unexpected and more difficult tests at you.

When you’re not tracking your behavior and you didn’t plan for a conscious effort, you know if you’ve learned a key principle or not.

The cycle never ends. You can always improve and there always be more things to learn. So you decide what you want to focus on now and what you can schedule for later. 

Here’s what to do next.

  1. Take a concept you’ve already learned but you still struggle with. (You can pick one from my mental training post)
  2. Keep practicing and tracking it until you see a difference.
  3. Life will do the rest by training you when you least expect it. Reflect on it and you will see a tremendous change in you.

Success is a result of daily actions…

Design your daily checklist for high performance and success. Click here to download the free PDF file.

Sorry, You’re Not Special And You Need To Read This

At the time of writing, there are 7.6 billion people on Earth.

About 360,000 humans are born every day. And the population will only rise. It has been estimated that by the year 2100, the population will grow to 11.2 billion people.

You are one of the billion people living on this planet right now. Even more people have come before you and will come after you.

Out of all these people, you think you’re special?

Let me tell you the truth.

Truth #1: No, you’re not special.

Sorry to break your heart. Your mommy and daddy lied to you.

Even if you have amazing talents, you’ll find more talented people than you. You’ll find people with better genetics, better upbringing, or better luck.

You are not at the center of the universe. There is no one looking for you. No one cares if you will leave a legacy or die alone.

So, what point do I want to make?

Do I just want to smash reality on your face?

The answer is…

No.

But I’m going to tell you two more truths.

Are you ready to read them?

Are you sure?

Okay, here it is.

Truth #2: You’re not special (And it’s okay to not be special)

You’re not special, but you can make the gift of life special. The gift is given to billions of people but if you choose not to take it for granted, your life will become special on your own terms.

A gift does not have to be special to be appreciated. It just needs to be celebrated to make it worthwhile.

You will end. Your legacy will die. The world will end. But, it does not matter. What matters is what you do with the little time (the gift) you have on earth. You have the mind and body to experience it. It’s not special. But it’s certainly beautiful.

Beauty is in the eye of the watcher. Slow down to experience awe. Appreciate life’s simple gestures. Life gives you everything you need to grow at the right moment.

You can experience most of life when:

a) You do more important (meaningful) work than urgent work.

b) You live in the present, take lessons from the past and plan for the future.

Truth #3: You’re not special (But you can choose to become great)

You can make yourself extraordinary. Let me explain what I mean.

Most people never live a complete life. They never examine their life. They never think about their own greatness because they have been brainwashed by the society.

They think legends are only found in books, magazines or television. They fall down to the expectations of others. They model the behavior of people around them and accept their fate.

It’s not to say an average life is always a bad life. But, most people live an ignorant life. Having just one life to live is too much of a risk to live an ignorant life.

The media portrays people with money and fame as ‘special’ people. And we think there must be some secret sauce to their success.

What we never see is that those people made themselves extraordinary by making sacrifices, achieving mastery, becoming self-aware and they turned their fate around.

Some people become famous and rich due to other reasons but those people don’t become great.

Greatness is a taught skill. You don’t need to become rich or famous to live a great life.

You can choose greatness every day and strive to become extraordinary in the world full of average people.

Greatness involves:

a) Reaching your higher potential.

b) Having the courage to follow your intuition.

c) Having the courage to be yourself.

d) Giving your life meaning and purpose.

e) Setting goals and working hard to achieve them.

f) Having a growth mindset.

g) Embracing obstacles, fear, and uncertainty.

h) Achieving mastery with deliberate practice.

i) Continually improving yourself.

j) Becoming a student of life.

k) Becoming a student of own self.

i) Taking full responsibility for your life.

m) Being honest with yourself.

n) Practicing self-control.

o) Living by your principles and having integrity.

p) Learning to manage your emotions.

q) Learning to manage your time and energy.

r) Learning to take care of yourself.

s) Learning to shift your attitude and perspective.

t) Being a good friend.

u) Having empathy towards others.

v) Forgiving yourself and others.

w) Making a positive impact.

x) Giving back to the world.

y) Being kind and humble.

z) Expressing gratitude.


Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. — Gordon B. Hinckley

Have faith in yourself and trust the process of life. Believe that everything is happening for you (not to you).

You don’t have to be special or use religion to take advantage of the power of believing. You can be religious if you want to but you don’t need to be.

You need hope. Hope brings peace and makes life worth living no matter where you are in the process of life.

Examine your beliefs and values to create yourself. Don’t blindly follow the crowd. Choose greatness to be special in your own eyes.

You could die at any moment, and you deserve to experience the greatness within you. So don’t waste the gift of life. Return the favor by becoming your best self. Leave the world better than you found it. Choose greatness every day, including today.

Want To Succeed Every Day?

Design your daily success checklist for high performance and success. Click here to download the free PDF file.

Life Out Of Balance? Here’s What You Need To Create An Epic Life.

I used to play all the time.

In fact, I was addicted to playing. All I thought and talked about was about playing.

Before video games entered my life, I was only drawn to outdoor and indoor games.

When I started playing video games, nothing was better than the feeling of make-believe and adventure.

I was hooked.

So much so that I could not study during my school time. At school, I would talk about video games with my friends. At home, I would play video games most of the time and when I tried to study, I could not focus because all I could think about was video games.

I did not realize how much addicted I was. It was not only destroying my academic life; it was also influencing my social life.

A few years later, when it was time for college, I enrolled in a game design course because games had become my passion.

As college started, I found the study of games fascinating. I could finally take an interest in the studies.

But as the study of games became my work, I stopped playing.

Then, I was hooked on learning.

Even when I played games, I played them to study them. I rarely played games for leisure.

All my focus was gaining as much knowledge as possible.

Later, I realized that learning and working are two different things. To convert knowledge into wisdom, learning has to be balanced with implementation.

Being a content consumer helped my life so much until I needed to take responsibility for my life. I had to practice skills instead of endlessly learning about them.

Then, there was a time in my life when I stopped playing and learning because I had too many items on my to-do list. I thought I was not ‘productive’ enough.

I’ve experienced extreme play, extreme learning, and extreme work. Like my past self, most people spend their lives in either of the three states.

Kids are given full freedom to play. Young people are told to study until they find a job and adults are supposed to work until retirement.

This system may have worked in the past but it’s not sustainable anymore.

Today, an average person is deprived of play, curiosity, and creativity.

Lack of play leads to stress and depression. Lack of curiosity leads to plateau and mediocrity. Lack of creativity leads to addictions and dissatisfaction.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you want more from life. You want to live a good life filled with growth and peace.

The Importance Of Play

“The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.” — Jane McGonigal

Kids play with zero worries in mind.

As we become adults, play is replaced by work. You learn that you need to make money. You need to become successful. You need to take responsibilities.

All that is true. But, it does not mean the end of play.

Play is essential. Play brings fun to life. It eliminates negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety. It improves relationships. It keeps you young and creative.

So many adults these days are play deprived. They burn out because of workaholism. They don’t take time to rest their mind and recharge their soul.

We are only humans and we need spaces of unproductive times in our life. Staying ‘on’ all the time is a recipe for disaster. It leads to low willpower and motivation when we need it the most.

However, if you schedule spaces of unproductive or play time, you will come back disciplined and focused when you need it during the time of work. 

Life is not all about accomplishing big goals. Learn from children. They show us how being happy looks like.

So, take some time out and play for a while.

The Importance Of Learning

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

The old times are gone.

Before, you could stick to one job without the fear of losing it if you kept doing average work.

Today, the world is changing at the fastest rate than ever before. The theory of evolution says that we need to adapt to the changes in order to survive.

So, you must stay up to date with the new tools and become a student over and over again.

Become a beginner and follow the pursuit of lifelong learning to excel at work and life.

Lifelong learning keeps your brain active and curious. It helps you to learn new skills or improve your current skillsets. It can take your personal and professional life to the next level.

Learning once, twice or thrice is not enough.

I don’t know about you but I don’t remember 95% of what was taught to me in school.

Learning happens when repetition happens. We can’t expect to see results if we keep consuming content without repeated practice or learning.

Our subconscious takes time before it can digest information.

Create short summaries or notes when you learn something and use them to revisit the main concepts. Also, you can consume the work of other people on the same topic to get new and fresh perspective.

The Importance Of (Creative) Work

“Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart, to give yourself to it.” — Buddha

If you want to make a living by doing something you love, you must become a creator. And if you love your work, it can be the source of fulfilment in life.

But if we don’t let creative habits be the source of dopamine production in our brains, we can become addicted to unhealthy habits.

It has become so easy to consume drugs, smoke, alcohol, junk food, porn, etc. It leads people to use addictions to produce dopamine in their brain whenever they want. And then, they need more of the same behavior to produce the same level of dopamine.

To escape the addiction cycle, learn to express and become a creator.

Creating and expressing are the best things you can do to serve your audience and your soul.

When you do creative work, you don’t need external motivation, apps or tactics to stay on track. You do the work because that’s your home.


Creating crappy content is easy. But masterpieces are the result of play, learning, and devoted work.

My best work comes out when there’s a balance between play, learning, and work in my life.

If I skip one of the three, my life falls out of balance. At the same time, I make sure I don’t overindulge in any of the three.

What’s one thing that is lagging in your life? Or are you overindulging?

I’m lacking some play in my life and I’m probably consuming more content than I need to create balance in my life.

What about you?

Want To Succeed Every Day?

Design your daily success checklist for high performance and success. Click here to download the free PDF file.

A Practical Hack To Combat Negative Thoughts In 2 Minutes Or Less

According to National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts.

If we repeat those negative thoughts, we think negative way more than we think positive thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapists have a term for it — ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

All negative thoughts are not bad. Being alert can help you survive but most negative thoughts are useless. They only create imaginary drama in your mind.

Let’s break this pattern. Do an exercise with me.

Step 1

Take out a piece of paper or open a writing software on your computer or mobile.

Step 2

List every negative thought you have. Once you’ve listed everything down, don’t stop. Dig deeper and write more thoughts about:

  • Your fears
  • Your insecurities
  • Your losses
  • Things that stress you out regularly
  • Things that irritate you about other people

Step 3

Make another column or a separate list.

Now, for every negative thought, write at least one positive thought.

  • If you fear failure, write one instance when failure helped you to learn a lesson.
  • If you’re insecure about your skills, write how much you’ve improved since you started.
  • If you’ve lost a relationship in the past, write about the beautiful time you spent with each other.
  • If you stress about work, write how your work is serving other people.
  • If you don’t like your coworker’s behavior, write about one positive thing about that person.

Shifting perspective sounds easy. But it’s not.

It takes practice.

This is why I want you to do this exercise right now. Once you do this exercise, your mind will remember it.

It will become part of your thinking process. Whenever you think of a negative thought, counter it with a positive one

Nervous about giving a speech in public? Think of the positive impact you will make.

Lost money? Think of one thing you have remain.

Feeling jealous? Appreciate one thing about yourself.

Make it a habit. Give yourself a one day challenge to balance your thoughts.

The aim is to make this habit part of your subconscious. Once it has become part of your thinking process, you will shift your perspective like Tony Robbins does.

Tony says we live in either of the two mental states — A beautiful state or a suffering state.

A beautiful state is when you feel love, joy, gratitude, awe, playfulness, ease, creativity, drive, caring, growth, curiosity or appreciation.

A suffering state is when you feel stressed out, worried, frustrated, angry, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, resentful or fearful.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Tony was not born optimistic. He practiced it. He put in the effort.

You can do the same.

Your thoughts are the roots of your destiny. Your next action results from your next thought. You owe it to yourself to improve the quality of your thoughts.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Lao Tzu

Take action

Do the exercise and give yourself a one day challenge to get started.

It takes a cue, routine and a reward to form a habit. The cue here is an automatic negative thought (ANT), the routine is a positive thought to balance it out, and the reward is how you feel.

Repeat until it becomes part of your thought process.

Comment below and let me know how it goes.

Want To Succeed Every Day?

Design your daily success checklist for high performance and success. Click here to download the free PDF file.

How I dealt with burnout and felt alive again in just one day

I woke up late. Very late.

I was stressed. My cortisol level was high. I had work to do early morning.

I pulled out my journal. I quickly wrote about the things I was grateful for, my focus for the day and an affirmation.

I sat down to work. But something didn’t feel right.

I was feeling overwhelmed. I was exhausted due to work and some people in my life. I felt it was time to hit the pause button.

So, I did it. I dumped all the plans for the day. I postponed my to-dos to other days, and I plugged off from work.

I decided to take a super tiny vacation.

I call it as “Solitude Holiday”.

For the full day, I spent time by myself.

It was the day of rehabilitation and rejuvenation.

I got up and went outside. On a normal day, I would listen to a podcast or audio while walking. But this time, I engaged all my senses and went on a walk.

I noticed the small things I would take for granted. I noticed the trees shedding off its old leaves, the chirping of the birds, the carefree playfulness of a child, and the sunshine hitting my eyes and skin.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 10.46.06

I came home and instead of weight training, I did a stretching session while listening to podcasts.

I made myself tea and paid attention to my thoughts.

I decided to think one thought at a time. It’s hard to do so in the world of internet and social media where we switch from thought to thought so easily. Every notification, social media page, headline, discount coupon and what not, make us quickly shift our attention.

I actively meditated and observed my thoughts without judgment. I noticed that most of my thoughts were useless. And that’s okay.

It becomes a problem when we give a useless thought the attention it does not deserve. Such thoughts try to fool our mind and pretend to be important but they’re not.

Then, I made myself a nutritious breakfast after fasting for twenty hours. After eating, I did some digital declutter, watched informative videos and read for a while.

In the evening, I watched some comedy videos and a nature documentary before going to the final part of my day.

While listening to relaxing music, I did a value and direction check in my journal. I checked if I was living a life true to myself. I checked if I was actively creating my future.

With that, I finished the day and went to bed under a warm and cozy blanket. I smiled, felt grateful and drifted off to sleep.

The next day, I was fully recharged. The cycle of creating, serving, learning, reflecting and recovering was back on.


So often we forget to hit the pause button. If you want to consciously design your life in the right direction, you have to listen to your mind and body.

For me, “Solitude holiday” works wonderfully. Every vacation does not have to be weeks or months long. Find out what works for you and make it happen when you need it.

When you feel out of focus or out of sync with life, hit the pause button. You’ll come back stronger and smarter.

“People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, or in the mountains. You are very much in the habit of yearning for those same things. But this is entirely the trait of a base person, when you can, at any moment, find such a retreat in yourself. For nowhere can you find a more peaceful and less busy retreat than in your own soul — especially if on close inspection it is filled with ease, which I say is nothing more than being well-ordered. Treat yourself often to this retreat and be renewed.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

How I read self-improvement articles for real personal growth without wasting my time

There are three kinds of people in the world:

  1. Those who read self-help and take action to make their lives or themselves better.
  2. Those who jump from one article to another making no changes in their lives.
  3. Those who don’t give a damn about self-improvement. They have no urge to click on clickbait self-help titles. Even if they somehow stumble upon such articles, they would read as if it is written in an alien language for an alien population.

This post is for people who are either in the first or second category. I used to be in the second category until I applied methods mentioned in the post. I’ve previously written about how to do things that successful people do.

In this post, I cover how I read and retain most important information in self-help materials (audio, video, text) and then how I make a system to apply what I learn.

Step 1: Hunting the articles

I have a system for finding the best article to read. For that, I have unsubscribed and stopped reading from the places which are not making much impact in my life.

There are millions of articles published every day. The fear of missing out stays there but I have learned to let it go.

If I want to read every single post of a blog, then I subscribe to the newsletters to never miss an update. For the blogs that I like but don’t have space in my inbox, I use news feeds like RSS and feedly.

When I use websites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Medium, etc., I teach them my preference. These websites show me more content of what I follow, like, read, watch, share and comment on. So I make sure not to follow or engage in content that I don’t want to see often. This improves my feed and I get the most relevant content.

Lastly, I have limited my content consumption time. I avoid the trap of endlessly consuming content with no output.

Tim Ferriss talks about “Low Information Diet” and suggests that we should consume less and apply more. Another concept is called as “Just-in-time learning” which means learning what we need to learn in life at the moment.

In his TED talk, David Ryan uses the term “Mental Obesity”. The idea behind it is that because we have an unlimited supply of information, we struggle to convert it into knowledge or wisdom.

Most of us get so busy consuming the information that we rarely convert it into wisdom.

From an evolutionary point of view, we are wired to gather information because it was the difference between life and death.

Like food, information was scarce. If the food was still scarce, we would not need to jump on a treadmill to burn off extra calories. For this reason, we have portion sizes and recommendations for daily dosage.

Information has to be treated the same way if we want to utilize it for best use. We cannot endlessly consume information and hope for the best.

If there’s a piece of content that I would like to learn about in future, I organize it and store it using web bookmarks, Google docs, etc.

“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
— Derek Sivers

Step 2: Reading the articles

When I was in school, I used to reread the text many times before I could comprehend and remember the details. The school conditioned me to pay careful attention to every word because I had to remember the minor details.

Unless I’m reading something that requires you to remember every detail, I don’t have to read that way.

Due to my lack of interest, I used to lose focus and reread the material several times. This led me to believe that I was a poor reader until I decided to become a good reader.

Speed reading has become popular as the supply of information has increased.

Before jumping into reading methods, keep in mind that reading comprehension is more important than reading speed. If I’m not comprehending, it is equivalent to not reading at all.

Here’s how I usually read:

Pre-reading or Scanning

Before diving in, I scroll through the article and check the length to prepare my mind. I make sure there are no distractions in that time period. Then, I look for titles, subheadings, bold text, images, or any other information that is standing out from the rest of the text.

If there are no such markers, I read the first and last sentence of each paragraph to scan the text.

Deciding reading method

Once I get an idea about the content, I decide how I will read it.
If the pre-reading does not evoke interest in me, I close the article without wasting my time.

If I think there is some information that is worth my attention then I speed read most of the text. I may stop and read at a slower pace where I find new or thought-provoking information.

If I think that the information is gold and I should invest my time into the article, then I forget about the techniques and I read at whatever pace I want. I still usually speed read but the goal is not to worry about time in such cases. The goal is to immerse myself into the text give it my full attention.

Speed reading

Speed reading is a skill. It is developed over time. I’m not an expert speed reader but here’s what has worked for me:

1) Optimize eye movement

We are conditioned to read while moving our eyes from one word to the next one. This is not the best approach for speed reading.

You can read much more efficiently by moving your eyes in saccades and skipping a few words in between. Practice this technique by using the image below. Jump from letter to letter to train your eye movement.

1

2) Improve peripheral vision

Focus on the middle letter of each line and try to read the letters beside it without moving your eyes. If you practice this often, your peripheral vision will improve and you won’t have to focus your eyes on each word.

2

If you work on improving your peripheral vision and fix your eye movement, you will broaden your fixation points and read more in less time.

3) Reset comfort zone of reading

Sometimes, read at a speed you’re not comfortable at to reset your default reading speed. Do not re-read any line to force yourself to pay attention.

You can also use your finger or pointer to keep reading at a constant pace without stopping. Alternatively, you can hide the text above with another book maintain stop the habit of re-reading.

4) Enhance reading experience

Lastly, use reading apps such as Mercury Reader or Just Read to make the text more readable. Safari has a build in reading mode which can be activated by clicking on the button at left side of the address bar.

Sometimes, when I have low mental energy and I want to read something, I use TTSReaderX In-Page Text to Speech to listen while reading. It not only makes reading fast and easy to follow, it helps improve comprehension as I engage two senses at the same time (reading and hearing).

Speed consuming also applies for audios or videos. YouTube videos and most podcasts apps let you alter the speed. I don’t speed up videos when I’m watching it for entertainment purpose but while watching TED talks or other informational videos, I usually x2 the speed.

For dense audios such as audiobooks, I listen at x1.25 or x1.5 to comprehend well. For podcasts, I listen at x1.5 or x2 because usually, it’s a flowing conversation which is still easy to comprehend at a fast rate.

Step 3: Remembering and applying the information

Memory training is an art. There are mental athletes whose job is to train to improve their memory for competition. They use techniques like mind mapping, memory palaces, mnemonics, etc.

Look into these techniques if you want to improve your memory but for reading self-improvement articles, you rarely need these techniques.

Our goal is not to remember for the sake of remembering. We want to remember the information until we learn to apply it in our lives.

Before reading anything, I make sure my mind is well rested and focused. If I read with a distracted mind, I end up wasting my time and energy.

Meditation, exercise and good nutrition have helped me improve my focus and attention span.

When I read an article for the first time, I don’t focus on remembering. I  let the text flow through my mind like a waterfall flowing through a stream.

After I finish reading, I scroll up and scan the article in reverse order. I capture the main points I want to remember.

I try using my senses to remember information.

I imagine the important details in my mind. I may use absurd pictures or analogies that surprise me or make me laugh.

I remember what I feel, not what I read.

I think about how I could have done something better in the past with the new information. Or I think how I can apply the information in the present moment or future situations.

If I can apply the information in shortly after reading, I do it as soon as possible.

If I know when to apply the information in future, I put it on my calendar or to-do list.

If I don’t know when I’ll need to apply the information in future, I either put it in “someday” section of my to-do list or I set up reminders. You may use traditional methods for reminders like using a board or sticky notes.

Spaced repetition helps the mind transfer the information to your subconscious mind. Once I’ve applied the information enough times, I replace the reminder with the next action I want to implement in my life.

Sometimes, I find articles that are jam-packed with useful information. In such cases, either I take notes or I save the article and revise it enough times. It works best when I revise the information right before applying the information.

Lastly, I boost my learning from jam-packed articles by reflecting on them. I switch between the following ways to reflect upon my learning:

1) Writing ideas

James Altucher suggests writing 10 ideas every day to exercises the “creativity muscle”. I’ve been doing it for almost a year and I’ve seen significant changes in my life as it helps me become an “idea machine”.
So, if I can use my creativity for the new information, I write 10 ideas related to the topic.

2) Journalling

I think on paper. No journalling app works as good as pen and paper for reflecting. If I read a thought-provoking material which is not necessarily action-oriented, I usually reflect on it in my journal to transfer the thoughts in my subconscious.

Journalling also acts as a personal accountability. Every day after waking up, I set my intentions for the day in which I write actions I want to implement in my life. Then before bed, I check if I did what I intended to do.

3) Writing or Teaching

Sometimes, instead of only writing my learnings in the journal, I write a post about it or teach someone what I learned so I strengthen my understanding. It also makes me research the topic in more depth.


Finding, reading and applying information is getting harder due to unlimited supply and access to information. But with little effort, you can create a system for personal growth with smart content consumption.

If you find any tips helpful, start using the tips with this article and let me know how it goes in the comments.