The average office worker works for two hours and 53 minutes in an eight-hour work day. About 180 minutes.
On average they spend 65 minutes reading news websites.
And another 44 minutes on social media.
What do they do on social media? I guess they argue with people who are around the world also sitting in their cubicles.
Everyone typing: “I hate this X because of Y and you are an htlr if you BELIEVE the opposite of me!!!!”
Or they “like” dog photos. “Chi-chi might die today. He was born with no legs. I have to check on him.”
The world is run by people working, on average, slightly less than three hours a day.
If you want to shine and change the planet then the answer is very simple.
Don’t read the news.
(Read the FAQ below if you think you will be less informed.)
There’s never anything in the news that will change your life.
Right now in the news (I’m assuming) there’s stuff about the Supreme Court nominee.
That might change my life but there’s nothing I can do about it at all. Zero.
There also might be local news. The UN is meeting in NYC. That won’t change my life. Maybe there was a murder or a robbery. That won’t change my life.
Maybe Tiger Woods won a tournament. That won’t change my life.
None of these things will change my life or make me a better person.
In fact, some of these things might make me a worse person.
I might decide to argue with someone. And during the 20 minutes we might argue, neither of us are doing anything to better ourselves or the world. We’re just fighting for the enormous privilege to say, “I was RIGHT” to argue with that other air-conditioned cubicle dweller.
I was RIGHT. I was RIGHT. I was RIGHT.
This will change your life:
Stay on social media those 44 minutes if you want.
But stop the news.
That’s 65 minutes a day you can do something else.
Take 20 minutes of that and work.
Now, instead of working 180 minutes a day, you’ll work on average 200 minutes a day. Not so bad. Just three hours and 20 minutes in an 8-hour work day.
Hardly any difference. In fact, it might seem like no difference.
But it’s 10% more output per day than the average worker.
JUST TEN PERCENT DIFFERENCE!
What does that mean?
With the laws of compounding, 10% per day means your output, your productivity, your contribution to work will be double that of your co-workers every seven days.
That’s enormous! Everyone will ask, “How is he so productive?”
What magic is he doing?
I know this because I don’t read the news and people ask me this question. I used to think I was fooling people.
I’m pretty lazy. I like to take naps. I like to have downtime. I like to take walks.
But just 20 more minutes of work per day and if you are a freelancer you can:
(I love doing my podcast)
- Learn a skill
- Connect more with friends
- Make more social calls that can turn into work opportunities
- Write down 10 ideas a day that can help people or form new connections
And with 20 more minutes a day if you are a cubicle dweller, you can:
- Help other colleagues with their work (and earn their later reciprocity)
- Make more sales calls or follow up calls with customers
- Think of more ways to improve the product or your sales efforts
- Build an extra skill that would be useful in the office
- Learn something new about your company or industry that can be useful in your job
- Improve the skill you were hired for. For instance, I was hired to be a computer programmer when I had a corporate job. I spent a lot of extra time trying to improve. The difference between a “good” computer programmer and a “great” computer programmer is about 10 times. Meaning: a great computer programmer will complete a task 10 times faster and with fewer errors than a simply good computer programmer. My guess is this is true for most skills.
Just 20 minutes a day and you dominate your world.
So instead of looking at the news for 65 minutes a day, look at it for 45 minutes a day.
Or even better…
You will be MORE INFORMED about the world if you look at the news…
ZERO MINUTES A DAY.
FAQ on this “obvious life hack”:
A) BUT WON’T I BE LESS INFORMED?
OK, about what? I’m going to look at CNN – Breaking News, Latest News and Videos right now and see what I will be less informed about if I don’t look at the news today:
- Brett Kavanaugh
- Tiger Woods
- Chinese tariffs
- $18 million in cocaine hidden in bananas
- Bill Cosby to be sentenced this week
- Six brothers attack another brother in a political ad
- “You won’t believe what Goldie Hawn looks like now!”
None of these things inform me in any way that will help my life or the lives of the people around me. Nor will any of these things make my work better.
People say, “Don’t you care who the Supreme Court Justice is?”
I do. But reading the news won’t allow me to have a voice one way or the other unless I was in Congress.
Better to create the news than to read the news.
I create the news by bettering myself, making myself more productive and having a real voice earned by my efforts at getting better at my craft and the things I am passionate about.
Then I can have a voice.
B) BUT HOW CAN YOU GET BETTER IF YOU ARE NOT INFORMED?
Remember, I said only 20 minutes of extra work out of the 65 minutes.
But I still don’t look at the news.
This morning I spent my extra time (45 minutes + the average of 44 minutes people spend on social media) reading books.
A book is written by someone who has spent years of his or her life accumulating life experience and then spending another year writing and crafting it into a form we can learn from.
A news article is mostly second-hand gossip written in a half hour by someone straight out of college.
This morning I read from:
“The Dichotomy of Leadership” by my friend and one of my favorite writers on leadership, Jocko Willink. Jocko has been a leader in life and death situations and has used those experiences to understand and explain leadership in corporate environments.
I benefit a lot from reading his experiences and how he’s distilled them into general principles.
“The Art of the Good Life” by Rolf Dobelli who presents 52 interesting ways to live a better life. This morning I read a chapter on “the authenticity myth”. That we are always striving to be authentic but perhaps there is no such thing as “authenticity” and we just need to do our best to be kind and honest.
And I’m re-reading for the 5th time “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey, also a friend, and one of my favorite writers. I read that book to improve my writing.
So in that 45 minutes (or more) I’m actually getting more informed about things that are important to me and the people around me and I’m becoming a better writer.
Reading books helps you become a better person, helps you create the news instead of just read the news.
C) BUT AREN’T BOOKS OUTDATED COMPARED TO TODAY’S NEWS?
I’ve worked for five or six different news organizations.
I remember two things:
1) An editor gathering everyone around for the morning meeting: “OK how can we best scare people?”
2) A TV news producer saying to me in the middle of a broadcast,“We’re just trying to fill the space between ads.”
The news is bad entertainment. Books and life experience are how you better yourself.
No matter what I think about Brett Kavanaugh and what you think, we’re either going to agree or argue. Nobody is going to change their mind. Nobody is going to improve their lives.
Ditto for Tiger Woods winning a golf tournament. Best case there is that I will get bored if we talk about it.
The past few days, with my extra time, I’ve also been writing down my “24 Rules of Wealth”. (A friend of mine asked me “what is money?” and I made this list and I’ve been posting it on Instagram.)
Here’s a taste of it:
(Here are six of the 24 rules and I explain each one in the notes. Posting bit by bit)
And in those 20 extra minutes (or 65) I just might have time to kiss someone a little more than the average person kisses.
We ONLY spend two hours, 53 minutes a day actually working in an eight-hour work day.
We spend 65 minutes a day reading online news.
We spend on average 44 minutes a day on social media.
If we spent 20 minutes of that news time doing just 20 minutes more work you will have double the productivity of everyone else every seven days. That adds up to amazing career success. (The math: 10% per day compounded is 100% in seven days.)
If we spend the other 45 minutes reading books instead of news you will experience drastic life improvement.
The news almost NEVER actually makes you more informed or betters your life.
I’m a lazy guy. I don’t want to be a billionaire. I don’t create new companies that will build rockets to Mars. Or drone robots. Or stem cell hamburgers. I like to sleep. I like to spend time with my kids, friends and loved ones.
I like my down time.
But for some reason everyone asks me, “How come you are so productive?”
I’ve written 19 books (I have two more coming out soon) and I do a podcast twice a week.
(New book coming out soon)
I do stand-up comedy three–five times a week and I help run a very profitable business that will do over 50 million in revenues this year. Plus I’m an investor in over a dozen companies that I keep regular track of and I’m involved in many charities.
I’m only productive because I don’t spend 65 minutes a day reading news and another 44 minutes a day (which is the average) arguing with people on social media.
I’m blissfully uninformed. And I’m living the dream.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Ahmad Ossayli.