My 4 Hour Work Week Journey: Low Information Diet

This is day 9 of My 4 Hour Work Week Journey. Please make sure you read the rest of the articles that came before this one to understand where I am in the journey. Click here to buy a copy of the 4 hour work week and go on the journey with me.

Probably one of the most controversial ideas in the 4 hour work week book. Tim begins by laying it all out (you’ll probably want to read the justification first, because the idea in and of itself will look totally crazy). I paraphrase:

I never watch the news and have never bought a newspaper in five years, except by accident.

The Logic Behind the Madness

Tim spends a lot of the chapter entitled Low Information Diet going into his reasons behind doing this. I will highlight a couple of them below:

1) Lifestyle design is about input: Whenever we take time to consume – input – information, we are taking our energy and focus away from the most important element of all taking action. While doing all this it’s important to keep in mind:

2) Most of the information we take in is: time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to our goals and/or out of our influence. He then challenges us to pause and reflect on most of the information we most recently consumed and see whether or not this is true.

3) Tim proposes that instead of always consuming information “just in case” something happens, let’s begin to take action and pause to consume information when we run into a problem or a challenge and need information to solve it.

My Take on the Matter

I tried writing a few paragraphs talking about my thoughts on this chapter, but I realized that it would probably be best for me to respond to whatever problems you guys may have with the statements above (I know some of you do).

In Case You Think I or Tim’s Ideas are Madness

So if you think the ideas above are full of bollocks or that I am a cheesecake head (creative metaphors today) for believing in his ideas, let me know by leaving a comment below and let’s get a dialogue going on the low information diet.

I think I will only leave you with 3 questions and a story to reflect on.

Three Questions

Reflect on the news you most recently consumed:

1) How much of it did you immediately take consistent action on to the point that you influenced what was being reported?

2) How much of what you consume on a day to day basis is actually relevant to your goals in life?

3) Do you find yourself engaging in and finding more pleasure in being smart and having intelligent conversations and thoughts than you do taking action and potentially failing?

The Story

I was once talking to someone who was watching the news around the time a mine exploded in China killing about 50,000 people. I was curious:

Now that you have spent 20 minutes sitting there watching that, what are you going to do?


But you sit there everyday and consume news media, surely you must act on this?

No, it’s just good to know.

You and I don’t help anyone by just knowing things and sitting in the house mentally masturbating ( sorry for the strong language but this is what we do a lot of the time), philosophizing and engaging in endless discussions.

We help people by taking action. Period!

Anyway, to the questions and actions section.

Questions and Actions: Low Information Diet

1) Go on a complete media fast: I don’t consume the news…..EVER!

Yes, very sad but very true. In spite of this, I am almost always up to date in the news.

Because I spend so much time online, and quite some time offline chatting with folks who constantly educate themselves, I know that for example in my country, Kenya:
i) A hotel called the Grand Regency was sold to Libyans for what many consider a low price
ii) That the Kenyan Finance minister has not only resigned because of the preceding event.

One of the most watched videos in Youtube history

Quite a Challenge

The challenging bit is: no web surfing unless its necessary to completing the task.

Now that will be hard.

Without consuming Youtube, blogs, videos and other Internet material, that leaves a HUUUGGGE vaccum in my day. So I guess I have now found the time to do those two high impact tasks a day.

Future Guiding Principles

2) Will I use this information for anything important and/or immediate? If the answer is NO, on both accounts, axe the information immediately: As a general principle:

Information is only as useful as your ability to take action and produce a result using it.

I already started doing this and am doing it more and more e.g. not listening to CDs on emotional health and relationships when I should be learning more about how blog content creation and monetization works. I think as a general tip, eliminate everything in your world (that you can) that doesn’t have to do with your goal at hand.

The ability to focus on one thing at a time and eliminate all input that doesn’t assist in that endevour tends to result in a much higher quality of work even when you put in a mediocre effort.

3) Practice the art of non-finishing: If the article isn’t useful, put it down. If the movie isn’t pulling your attention, entertaining or educating you, walk out. More isn’t better. More important, useful things are. Practice letting go, even half way of that which is ineffective, unimportant or useless.

No Comments

  • By rags, July 22, 2008 @ 2:47 am

    wasup! I liked todays entry. Keep on taking your journey, i think that its for the better. About your reply jana, I did not jua that Kenyan blogging peaked some time around a couple of years back! I guess i am late to the game. But its all good. By the way, i’m looking forward to listening to the Kirk Nugent podcast.

  • By Mwangi, July 22, 2008 @ 3:27 am

    @rags: I must apologize. Technical difficulties. The podcast is done, it’s uploaded but for some reason the technology isn’t working so I’m working with a tech guy to resolve it.
    Yup, that’s the word from acolyte. Apparently sometime back is when the Kenyan Blog Ring was just buzzing with a bright, vibrant community and then scandal rocked it and it began its slow decline.
    You and I are both pretty late. Who knows, we may end up redefining it or creating a brand new niche all together.
    I have already taken the next few steps, I am now in the automation stage and working on getting the content done for release over the next fortnight.

    Cheers for the continual support

  • By Leeban, July 22, 2008 @ 11:20 am

    “mentally masturbating” im gonna keep that one. Im kind of a newshound, i like to know whats going on in most of the world, even if i can’t do shit about it. I get it online since the the tv news is worthless. What is Tims problem with excess information?

  • By Mwangi, July 22, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

    @Leeban: Yeah the whole mental masturbation is the perfect thing to slip into any formal or uptight situation to make it even more so ;) The problems with being an excessive consumer of information are many, as is stated in the post, but if I was to basically cut it all down to one principle:

    Time taken to consume information is time taken away from acting on previously acquired information, when most of the information that we currently, and previously consumed was negative, irrelevant and a waste of time anyway.

  • By Evan, July 22, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

    Hi Mwangi,

    I don’t bother watching the news hardly at all. I follow some stories – global warming etc but not through the mainstream media; I usually find the coverage superficial and trivial. When I do watch the news and other media it is to have stuff to talk about with other people because they watch it.

    My main media these days is blogs.

  • By Mwangi, July 22, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

    @Evan: And that’s another very important piece to all of this, the level of superficiality, especially when it comes to television reporting. How many times do we need to hear the story, “The way we are portrayed in the media is so inaccurate. We are only portrayed as X when we also have qualities Y and Z……..”
    I am also slowly weaning myself off of blogs because I was spending way too much time on them.

  • By Pink M, July 23, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    Can I just admit that I’m kinda lost about this 4 hour week concept. Two reasons, one, slow internet, so i’ve missed all the podcasts, and the second, I’m a classic 40+ hour week worker and I like it that way, at least till I’m about 38-40 years. I don’t know why, but a 4 hour work week doesn’t appeal to me. May be it’s cos of my orientation, or I like the pressure.

    About news, I rarely get news (I’m in the office most of the time), but will religiously read the business sections of the dailies, cos this directly impacts my work. Otherwise, no politics, no flood stories.

  • By Mwangi, July 24, 2008 @ 10:22 am

    @Pink M: Nah that’s fine. Until a project like this succeeds the most I can hope for is folks to just support me because of the previous work of the tDA not because of the journey itself. Hmmm, I hope I have been putting enough text out that you can follow along.
    I never ever envisioned an office job. The only reason I ever started trying to make money was so that I would have enough money to hold my back so I can do other things that I want to do with my life i.e. I never ever wanted to exist in the 40 hour, hours for income model, hence the ideas of the 4 hour work week made sense, and I was working towards them, long before I ever read the book.
    I think your approach to information consumption is probably one of the better midpoints when compared to the news overload we Westernized folks are used to: reading journals relevant to your goals in the work place.
    As an example, yesterday I sat for hours and listened as a man explained to me the history of Kenya and how the British handed over to Kenyatta who continued stealing and on and on and on until today. I was fascinated, captivated, compelled, but when it was all said and done, we picked up our stuff went home and the problems of Kenya were still the problems of Kenya, which begs the question, “Was the conversation neccesary to achieving any progress?”

  • By Evan, July 24, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    Big question Mwangi,

    I do think history can give us a starting point for analysing the present and so a place to begin explore changing it. It’s only a starting point though. As Kurt Lewin said: if you want to know how the system operates, try and change it.

  • By Pink M, July 24, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

    I hear you Mwangi. May be I should read the book and get to understand, who knows I might become a convert, but then what do I do with all those free hours? :)

    Could you may be classify the story session you had yesterday as entertainment may be? Like my watching US presidential campaigns?

  • By Mwangi, July 24, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

    @Pink M: Hmm, you know for most of my life in Nairobi whenever I discussed politics with my peers, it was jokes e.g. making fun of the politicians etc etc, but now that am an adult, as I look at the conversations I am having with my peers, I realize that they have taken a much more serious tone, and that tribalism has actually entered my peers. So, politics is many things, but entertainment at this stage it appears its not.
    The book talks about that fact that once you have free time and stop creating minutiae and work to fill your time, there is a void and he talks about his ideas for how to fill that, so its a pretty complete book. Chose one of the podcasts, they are usually less than 20 mb in size and listen to the guy. His level of empiricism is what drew me to actually buying the book beyond the hype.

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