The Low Information Diet (Tim Ferriss)


Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Work Week, is clearly the business/lifestyle title du jour. Having now topped the New York Times and WSJ best seller lists, he is gaining a cult following over here in the UK and Europe.

In simple terms, it is a book about "lifestyle design" – or how to do the things you really want to do in your life and earn enough cash to do them without having to work 80 hours a week-  and wait until 60 to retire.

There’s obviously a lot more to it than this – he’s very cleverly taken a lot of themes from existing business books on things like the 80/20 rule and wrapped them up with some original insights of his own.

One of the cornerstones of his approach is what he describes as the "Low Information Diet". A common theme running throughout the book is the call to minimise the amount of information input you have to deal with – and focus on maximum output. For example, in terms of e-mail, he recommends an auto responder that says you will only check e-mail twice a day – once at 11am and once at 4pm. If people really need to call you, then you give them a mobile number – according to Ferris, this drastically reduces the number of so-called urgent disruptions you get in a day. (Wonder how many PRs or journalists could get away with this?)

However, he has an even more radical approach to reading newspapers and magazines  – namely, not reading them at all. He claims to have not read a newspaper in 5 years. He devotes a couple of hours per month to reading one trade mag. And according to him, it has had no negative impact on his life or ability to generate income whatsover. In fact, quite the reverse.

From a PR and publishing perspective, this has some interesting implications. His book is clearly very popular. So what if people start adopting Ferriss’ low information diet in great numbers? Will magazine and newspaper circulations begin to fall further as people take this credo to heart and ignore virtually all printed mattter (or other media)?

To be fair to Ferris, he does suggest trying the low information diet for a week or month to see if you can truly remove your addiction – would be interesting to see how many PRs or journalists could get away with adpoting this approach – but perhaps we can indulge in a mass experiment to see if our lives are significantly changed in any way by doing it……

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Comments

  1. Smithy – Have not read the book, but your précis of the low information diet section gives the impression that newspapers, magazines are only read for work-relevant information, as opposed to for their own sake because people are interested in what’s going on in the world and feeling connected to a collective humanity.

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  2. Ben – his point is in relation to work-relevant info – the thrust of his argument would be that if you want to read then it should be as a result of freeing up your time to do that – because that’s what you want to do – although if you read his blog he does seem to advocate an extreme position that suggests most media consumption is a waste of time…..

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  3. Hi Andrew

    It’s an interesting point, but personally not reading newspapers and magazines would seriously compromise my ability to generate income.

    As an example, I was reading an article in the Virgin Trains magazine yesterday, which gave me an idea I pitched to an HR title.

    Given that half the stuff I do is probably pitched proactively, I can’t see another way of generating new ideas and seeing what’s already been done. And I’d imagine the same applies to PR types, no?

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  4. Hi Sally – I agree that his argument does somewhat fall down in relation to jobs and professions that hinge upon reading newspapers, mags, blogs, etc – like PR and journalism. But I suspect he would suggest making sure that the amount of time you do spend on these activities is kept to a productive minimum – ie don’t let “research” become an open ended time sink. In fact, he’d argue that any job that relies on you devoting large amounts of time to it is not one to have. To create your ideal lifestyle, you need to :
    a) have your business
    b) sell a product not a service
    c) make it web based
    d) outsource everything
    e) generate the income you need to do what you reall want without having to spend time on it

    Easy, eh? 😉

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  5. Just read this book Andy after you and others recommended it. I throughly enjoyed it. What are we doing running service businesses, the most intensive, high maintenance way of generating an income? Would love to hear what you think next time we get chance to catch-up.

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  6. Andrew Bruce Smith says:

    Wadds – yup, we ought to catch up soon and compare notes 😉

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