This is a contributed post by Niklas Goeke. Nik is a freelance writer and habit coach, sharing his best lessons as step-by-step guides on niklasgoeke.com. He previously taught you how to become an essentialist on Productivityist, and now he’s back to show you what to do with the extra time you saved there.
Do you know how much information you consume every day?
Take a guess in gigabytes (GB). To give you an idea, 1 GB equals an entire pickup truck filled with paper and Apple’s latest iMac has a maximum of 3000 GB of storage.
Got it? Good.
Here’s how many gigabytes of data you consume, every single day:
BAM! Almost 75 GB worth of data are downloaded into your brain, every single day. That’s the same as if you went through 9 DVDs packed with data (or the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, special extended edition).
Less than 10 years ago, this number was less than half of what it is now. Why is that a problem?
Because you’re not using 99% of it.
Let’s be honest, how many of the articles you read, videos you watch, phone calls you make, words you say and podcasts you listen to, do you actually take action on?
I’ve been there. For years I kept reading blogs, listening to interviews and watching TED talks, without implementing what I’d learned.
The worst part? I felt really good about myself. After each article or video I’d sit in my room, feel really inspired, and have tons of new ideas.
But ideas are just a multiplier of execution. Derek Sivers explains it with a simple chart.
In order to know how much an idea is worth, you have to multiply it with the level of execution.
A brilliant idea without any execution is worth no more than $20. However, a weak idea, if executed well, can be worth $100,000.
That’s why today I’ll not only show you what you can do to learn something new every day, but also how to actually do something with it.
This article will show you
- where to find new things to learn, every single day,
- how to consume them without going into overdrive
- and what to do with those 75 GB you pick up every 24 hours.
Why is this important?
If you’ve ever arrived at the end of the day and wondered why you feel so tired, where your time went, and what you actually got done, then you already know the answer to this question.
Information is thrown at our brains at an unprecedented rate, almost every second of the day. Even attempting to filter it wears us out and leaves us feeling bad, no matter how much we accomplish.
After implementing this article, 3 things will happen in your life:
- You’ll limit the amount of information you have coming in every day, and be less overwhelmed.
- You’ll feel a lot better about the things you do learn, because you’re actually backing them up with actions.
- Without even trying, you’ll build a massive personal brand in the process.
Yup, you can even boost your career this way. Here’s are two great examples of that last one.
Chris Bailey decided to watch as many TED talks as possible in one week, and made it to 296 talks in 7 days. But instead of leaving it at that, he put what he learned into action and wrote about his experience on Lifehack.
The result? 31,000 people shared the article, meaning hundreds of thousands have seen it.
How great would it be to get that kind of exposure to your name?
Here’s another one. Trying to up the ante for my own personal reading and writing, I decided to read a book summary on Blinkist, which I know Mike is a big fan of as well, every single day.
To make sure I do something with it, I started writing down 3 lessons from each book I read on Blinkist. Then I published my thoughts online and ta-da…Four Minute Books was born.
Within the first 3 months of launching the site, over 30,000 people have seen my content (and my face, since it’s right on my homepage).
As a result, I learn something new every day, feel much more accomplished and now more people recognize my name than ever before.
Now I want you to be able to say the same thing after reading this post, so let’s get to work!
We’ll start with where to find something new to learn each day.
Where to find something to learn
You probably learn from hundreds of different sources online already, but I bet it’s not a concentrated effort. (That is, unless you have decided to take on researching online MBA programs without a GMAT requirement, and that will have its own criteria and way of working.)
For this to work, we’re going to need a plan. First, you’re going to pick a format that matches your preferred learning style. Second, you’re going to pick a source for your learning, and third, I’ll guide you through building your own little curriculum, to eliminate the paradox of choice.
Finding your preferred learning style
Everyone learns best in a different way. Some people are readers, and can virtually see certain parts of text being highlighted as they read. Others are listeners, and remember minute details their grandparents told them years ago.
While it’s been proven that we have to apply a variety of learning styles in order to truly learn well, you probably already have a gut feeling as to what works well for you, and what doesn’t.
Think about some things that you remember very well and then about how you originally learned them.
Did you draw a mindmap? Instantly teach what you learned to someone else in a manual fashion? Or just sit quietly and absorb what you just heard?
Thinking about this should help you pick one of the following 3 ways of learning:
- Written text (books, blog posts, magazines, research papers)
- Audio (podcasts, interviews, radio shows, audio books)
- Video (Youtube, online courses, TV documentaries)
If you find it tough to go with one (based on your gut feelings and answering the above questions), then take this learning style quiz for some additional insight.
Action step: Pick one of the three ways of learning.
Pick a source to learn something new from
Now it’s time to pick a source that matches your way of learning, in order to maximize how much you’ll remember.
The possibilities are endless here, so I’m deliberately giving you a limited number of options, three for each way of learning, along with my personal favorite.
- Books – The great thing about books is they let you consume a lot of insights in a few hours. It’s a habit many successful people share, and I know Mike always has several books on his reading list.
- Blinkist – An app that allows you to read condensed 15-20 minute summaries of the world’s best non-fiction books. Good for getting the nuts and bolts and discovering authors as well as new topics. This is my weapon of choice after an extensive review.
- Four Minute Books – If you love books, but just can’t seem to find more than a few minutes on your commute to work or during lunch hour, you can pick up 3 lessons from one of over 100 books in just 4 minutes – that’s what I created my website for.
- Podcasts – Maybe the number one biggest trends of the last decade. As of 2015, there are over 150,000 active podcasts, so the choice really is vast. You can find a podcast on any topic, be it knitting, starting a software business, or golf. They’re usually between 20-120 minutes long and are great to listen to in the car or on the train.
- TED talks – With over 2,400 available talks, TED is nothing to scoff at. You could watch a talk every day for 6 years and still not be done. The maximum length is 18 minutes and each of them is packed with insights from a celebrity or expert in their respective field, which makes them my personal favorite.
- Audiobooks – These can be a relaxing alternative to soak up information. I find audiobooks are a great way to calm down before bed, listen to on your commute or even while taking a walk. Audible has a great selection.
- Youtube – There’s hardly anything you can’t learn on Youtube. You can find a channel with hundreds of videos on the topic of your choice, guaranteed.
- Movies – Contrary to the popular opinion that movies are a massive waste of time, you can actually learn quite a lot from them. Especially if you watch movies based on true events, every single one holds dozens of lessons about life, whether you want to start a business or become a professional race car driver. This is definitely my favorite in this category.
- Documentaries – These are even closer to reality, and often not as long as a nomral movie. You can watch many documentaries for free, on Youtube, or buy them in bulk for little money.
Pick one of these nine, find a channel or author who talks about what you want to learn, and then let’s build a curriculum for your first month of learning something new every day!
If you’re really struggling, here’s a simple formula you can google to find a plethora of learning sources:
Top + [topic] + [medium]
For example, if I want to learn something about cooking via audio, I can simply google “top cooking podcasts” and then pick one from a top 10 list.
Action step: Choose a source to get your content from that matches how you want to learn and the topic you want to learn about (for example if you chose video and cooking, pick a Youtube channel which shows how to make recipes).
Setting up a curriculum
At the beginning of each semester in college, you’re usually given a curriculum, with exact information what the class will cover.
For your daily learning, you can simply build one with a spreadsheet. We’ll use it to plan the next 30 days. Knowing what you’ll learn 30 days in advance will reduce cognitive load and overwhelm.
Simply go to , create a new spreadsheet and call it “Content Curriculum”. Make four columns: “URL”, “Name”, “Date” and “Done?”.
Now, go to your source and fill 30 rows with content from it. For example, let’s say you picked the Youtube channel “How to cook that”, because you want to learn how to make delicious desserts.
Go to their list of videos and just copy the links and names to the document.
Once you have 30 pieces of content (for the first month), assign a date to each piece, on which you’ll read, listen to, or watch it.
Pro tip: Just assign your starting date to the first one, then click on it and drag it down the column to automatically fill the column.
Leave the “done?” column open for now, you’ll get back to this later. Make sure you consider the length of each piece of content. Blog posts, Youtube videos, chapters in a book, or podcasts (or half an episode of one), are good units.
Action step: Create a list of 30 pieces of content you want to read, watch or listen to over the next 30 days. Make sure to keep the length of each piece in mind. Add dates to plan what you’ll learn on which day.
How to consume what you’ll learn
Have you ever wondered why can read a whole book, eat a huge bag of chips or watch an entire season of Breaking Bad in a single sitting?
There’s a reason for that, and it’s called unit bias. As humans we like to consume things in units.
Think about it. You don’t go to a restaurant and order “half a pound of burger”, you just order a burger. When something is put in front of us, our default tendency is to just consume the whole thing.
(Yes, some of us consume in bigger units than others – via Muscle & Fitness)
While the research behind this phenomenon mostly deals with food, the same rules apply for entertainment and learning. That means the measurement you choose for learning something new every day matters.
You could try to read a certain number of pages in a book or say you’ll watch X minutes of a talk or video, but consuming in units will be much easier, because it matches your natural tendency.
Therefore, I’m giving you a simple unit limit to learn something new every day: one.
One video, one blog post, one chapter in a book, one podcast, one summary, whatever the unit of your chosen source is, shoot for consuming one per day. Yes, even if it’s a 2 hour podcast – chances are once you started, you’ll listen to the entire thing anyway.
To make it more likely for you to follow through, one more thing you should do is block a time slot at the same time each day for your daily learning. Open your calendar, make sure you find a spot with sufficient time, and add it in.
Pro tip: Set a reminder both as a notification on your phone and an email, to make it more likely you’ll catch it in time before your learning session
Action step: Set a time slot on your calendar, every day of the week, at the same time in which you’ll read, listen to, or watch your content.
What to do with what you’ve learned
Alright, great, you’re set up to learn something new, every day, and at the same time too!
Now all you have to do to really make it worth your while is do something with it.
Unless we put a new thing we learn into action that very same day, it becomes very unlikely for us to put it into action at all. Sometimes you try to do that, and it works. But often it doesn’t.
The reason is that you don’t always learn something you can apply instantly, or easily. Often you learn something new, but aren’t in the position to directly apply it to your own life yet.
For example, while reading a post about making $5 million within a week makes me feel very inspired, it’s not something actionable I can instantly put to work (I wish!). However, even if taking action on what you learned is too hard or just not possible, you can always share what you’ve learned.
So here’s how to make sure you actually do something with the things you learn every day:
Share what you’ve learned online, every single day. Nathan Barry says it best when he talks about teaching everything you know.
This is not only the habit that will make you feel really good about the things you learn and give you a good night’s sleep, but also the one that just might make you rich.
Right after you’re done learning for the day, share what you’ve learned on the social network of your choice. As long as you pick one network and stick with it, you’ll see the compounding effects of this daily habit within a few weeks already.
People might not notice you when you post about supercars on Facebook one day, Twitter the next and Reddit the third, but if you stick to one medium, heads are going to turn.
The cost of entry to build an audience around any topic is $0, no matter what your preferred way of sharing is, whether it’s talking, writing, pictures, or singing (that might get a bit weird though).
Here are some great platform ideas.
Quora: Quora has articles on all topics conceivable, but is most widely known for its question and answer system. You can search for your topic and answer a question every single day.
It doesn’t take very long for you to get noticed, for example my friend Chris answered 40 questions and became a most viewed writer for his category, generating thousands of views per month.
Youtube: Here’s how simple it is to make a vlog which can be seen by the entire world in 2016.
- Go to Webcamera.io.
- Press record.
- Download the video.
- Upload to Youtube.
In most cases, no one will watch your videos in the beginning. But 5 viewers will turn into 17, then 145, 737, 1400 and eventually you’ll reach thousands of people with each video.
For example, popular Youtuber Casey Neistat started his Youtube channel in 2010. He’d upload a couple times a month and over 5 years he built a substantial base of 500,000 subscribers.
In 2015, he started a daily vlog. Once he started publishing daily, his channel’s growth exploded. 5 months later, he had another 500,000 subscribers. Another 2 months go by, and he’s totaling 1.5 million.
Blog: Did you know you don’t even have to start a blog, to start a blog? Medium does it for you. You open it, press “Write a story…” right on the home page, and you’re good to go.
Some people have built a massive following, just through consistently blogging on Medium (Ali Mese is one example). Medium has a great built-in discovery system, guaranteeing you a few readers for each post. Popular articles often get picked up by big publications, like Huffington Post or Business Insider.
If you play this game long enough, you’re bound to have a few big hits!
No matter which platform you choose, sign up and release an announcement message, right now. Don’t even configure your channel. No fiddling with the settings or adjusting your profile picture. Just sign up and announce your new policy.
Pick an aggressive launch date – how about tomorrow? 🙂
Oh, and before you tell me you don’t have 30 minutes to write a short blog post, 15 minutes to answer a question, or 5 minutes to make a Youtube video, you can still post a 3 minute blurb in Reddit’s “Today I Learned” section , record a 1 minute selfie-talk and post it on Instagram, or even shout it out to the world in a 30-second Anchor message.
That’s it! Once you’re done sharing each day, you can add a “yes” to your curriculum’s “done?” column.
Action step: Pick a social network where you’ll share your daily learnings right after you’re done. Release an announcement message with a launch date right now (bonus points if your launch date is tomorrow).
Your turn to learn something new every day
Alright, that’s my stop. This is where I leave. Now it’s your turn. But first, let’s recap the steps quickly:
Step 1: Find out your preferred way of learning by doing some critical thinking or taking the learning style quiz.
Step 2: Pick a source of knowledge and find a channel that delivers on your topic of choice.
Step 3: Build your own content curriculum with a simple spreadsheet.
Step 4: Schedule time in your calendar to learn from one unit of content. Make it the same time each day.
Step 5: The moment you finish learning, share what you just learned on the social media platform you settled on.
That’s how you learn something new every day, eliminate overwhelm, feel really good about your progress and build a massive following.
To help you put all of this into practice, I’ve put together a daily learning bonus package with the following extras:
- A video explaining the technique I use to time my daily learning and make it effortless
- The template of the content curriculum spreadsheet to make it plug & play for you
- How to use another potential platform, which you can create yourself and with which you own your entire audience (as opposed to social media, who can shut you down at any time)
You can grab those bonuses here.
I can’t wait to hear your announcement message and see what topic you’ll cover. Will you teach everything you know? Let me know in the comments.