The 4 Hour Workweek: Information Dieting

In a brief Chapter 6 of The 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss encourages a low-information diet. He himself doesn’t watch the news or read the paper, and limits his industry/work-related reading significantly. If that sounds extreme to you, or even irresponsible, I’d suggest skimming this chapter before throwing his ideas out the window; personally, I found some of his tips very useful.

Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence.

Again, this chapter is chock-full of actionable goodies:

  • Cut out all news media: newspapers, radio, magazines, news web sites, news feeds, etc. “How do I stay informed?” Tim suggests that you can glance at headlines of newspaper stands — or use your ignorance as a conversation starter to actually connect relationally with other people (gasp!) by asking, “I didn’t get to read the paper. What’s going on in the world?”
  • Cut out all reading and web surfing unless it is necessary to complete a work task for that day. The exception to the reading rule is, of course, The 4 Hour Workweek, although Tim also encourages reading an hour of for-fun fiction before bed to help relax. After trying a cold-turkey fast for a week, you can bring back some business-related reading/scanning — but only that which actually helps you with immediate results. One interesting suggestion he had (which I won’t be following) was to limit non-fiction reading to one book at a time so that you absorb the information more easily.
  • Ask: “Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important?” If not, don’t read it. And don’t get into the slippery slope of “I might need this someday.” Chances are that by the time someday comes, you will have forgotten the details anyway and reread it.
  • Stop researching and ask the experts. Instead of reading ten books about “how to do something,” cut to the chase and find a friend, colleague, or other “real person” who has done what you want to do and let them direct you. This also works for socially responsible action: Tim gives the example of how he voted in the last presidential election; he sent emails to American friends he shared values with and asked them who they were voting for and why, talked to international friends about their perspectives on the candidates, and let all those people synthesize all the media he didn’t have to read. The only media-based information he took in was to watch the presidential debates.
  • Be okay with quitting. If a book or movie or article sucks, stop reading or watching it! Don’t waste your time.
  • Learn to read faster. Tim has some tips on how to learn to read faster.

I’ve stopped going to news web sites (and I must admit that I mostly looked at the entertainment gossip page anyway instead of “real news”!), pruned down my Google Reader feeds to 92, and have gotten good at skipping past blog feed items that aren’t immediately interesting to me. I’m also intrigued by the idea of going to “experts” instead of reading and researching, and I’m wondering how that might apply to things like labor and delivery and raising a child, although I’m still intending to read through the “buying your first home” book that I’m partway through. And that’s about the extent of personal application for me. I’m definitely guilty of taking in tons of non-actionable information, but I’m too much of a reading addict right now to change my blog-reading and book-reading ways.🙂

This is my fourth full post with thoughts about The 4 Hour Workweek. View other posts related to The 4 Hour Workweek.

5 thoughts on “The 4 Hour Workweek: Information Dieting

  1. I can fully understand the suggestion to stop watching the news, but I would miss the BBC. I use their breakfast news to keep me on track in the morning, I use their website when I need a break at work and sometimes I watch the evening news as well.

    I have recently changed my morning routine so I am watching less of the morning news and I would be reluctant to cut the rest out. However I will give a go at breaking away from the website at work.

  2. Kate – That’s how I feel about the blogs and books I read. They’re my “entertainment.” It would definitely interesting to do a “media fast” for an extended period of time and see how what kind of impact that would have on me… but I’m not ready to commit to that experiment!

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