Reformulate Your Information Diet to Learn Better

Want be a better learner? Then you might want to consider reformulating your information diet.


Three guesses about you:

  1. You consume other sources of non-fiction than blog posts like this: books, podcasts, videos, classes, lectures from your wife, etc.
  2. You consume that non-fiction to learn.
  3. You wouldn’t mind learning more in less time.

Not the wildest guesses, I know.

But presuming these three things are true about you, it’s worth asking yourself this:

Wouldn’t it make sense to reconsider the relative proportions of each source of information in your learning diet?

Doing so may help you learn better.

Consider this…

Me wondering whether book summaries are worth reading
I changed the way I look at book summaries.

Reformulate Your Information Diet

In my case, I recently reformulated my media diet with regard to book summaries.

By “book summaries,” I mean CliffsNotes, Blinkist, and even blog posts that ostensibly boil down what you “need to know” from a book into a pamphlet-sized package.

I’ve always looked down on book summaries as a way to learn.

To be honest, I also looked down on people who paid for them.

But then someone I don’t look down to, Dana (He’s a good source for learning how to learn languages, by the way), told me he’d mixed book summaries into his information diet. This made me second-guess my book summary snobbiness.

So I set out to research the pros and cons of book summaries.

Unfortunately, there were no good books on the topic. So I settled for articles, comments, Reddit threads, and even using my own brain.

And, because my brain works best with simple things, I came up with three analogies:

  • Travel: Reading a book is like renting a long-term Airbnb in a foreign location. Reading book summaries is traveling to tick boxes.
  • Nutrition: Books are like home-cooked meals. Book summaries are like nutritional supplements or Soylent.
  • Exercise: Book summaries are bicep-curl-esque isolation exercises. Books are compound exercises like squats.

In all analogies, I favor the former. But in no cases do I snobbishly ignore, look down upon, and avoid the latter.

Because quick trips, isolation exercises, and supplements can be useful. And so too, I realized, can book summaries. Not to replace books, but to complement them.

So I’ve started mixing in book summaries for:

  • Discovery. Skimming the surface of new topics in search of books to dive into it.
  • Reinforcement. Comparing my book notes to the summarizers’.

In summary, I’m pretty sure my slight information diet reformulation will help me learn a little bit faster.

My Challenge to You

Ask yourself:

  • What’s your typical information diet formulation? 
  • How does that differ from other people you know?
  • And is there any way you could potentially adjust it to learn better?

Then try it. See if it helps.

Related Thought Starters

  • 🌍 Smarter to be news-less? Imagine the world was twice its size. Would you consume twice as much news? Why or why not? (See more thought experiments that helped me reduce my news consumption.)
  • 🙅 Not so stupid. When was the last time you changed your mind and found value in something you used to think was “stupid”? If you don’t have a recent answer, maybe it’s time to find one.
  • 🏋️‍♂️ A better way to learn? Like many people, I learn best through analogy. And I’ve gained a deep understanding of these analogy sources through experience. So maybe it’s better to spend less time consuming info and more time doing things.
  • 📺 More YouTube? A surprising thought on reading from renowned bookworm Tyler Cowen: “YouTube is in many ways becoming more potent than books.” He thinks he’s underutilizing YouTube for learning. Me too, I realized. You? (PS, Please subscribe to my channel)
YouTube video

Free Wake-Up Call

Take the 20-question "Comfort Zone Assessment" to find out in just 3.5 minutes:

Where are you complacent?

Which area of your life most needs a push?

How to get started?

It's gimmicky and unscientific, but also quick, fun, and revealing.

Be Uncomplacent

PS: Surprise personalized accountability challenge afterward.

About the author

I'm Chris. Canadian, husband, dad, writer, investor, athlete, and obsessed explorer of the secrets to living a never-boring, always improving, unfollowable life story.

Leave a Comment

Latest Articles

Slide Some Excitement Into Your Inbox

Join me and 5,000 others for a weekly dose of uncomplacent, unconventional inspiration for enjoying life on your own terms.