Updated: Dec 7, 2020
This is a really powerful concept - for powerful read leverage, ie will make you many multiples better/stronger/more efficient - which evolved when one day I asked myself the following question:
"Consider all of the cognitive material you consume - reading, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, speaking with friends, or attending talks. How much of that is practically retained - that is, how much of the things you have learnt have you incorporated into your daily life, and are now putting into practice?"
Thinking about this leads to the startling revelation:
MOST OF WHAT YOU CONSUME IS WASTED.
That's right. All those endless hours you spend teaching yourself stuff, you then proceed to ignore, and forget. Not deliberately - but that's what ends up happening. Why? Consider your/most people's cognitive consumption process. You read something interesting/of value. It resonates with you, and you may discuss it with some friends. Embedded in it is some lesson - eating less carbs leads to weight loss; aerobic exercise burns more fat than anaerobic; meditating every day for 10 minutes leads to better judgment/creativity. Doesn't matter what; but there is a lesson, which you believe, having read the blog/heard the podcast; and which now requires a behaviour change to put into effect.
And here is the problem. The process is actually to take it on board; say to yourself "hmm, yes I should meditate every day". But then it's up to the gods - the next steps are to hope you remember the lesson for a while; and further, hope to find time to do it occasionally. Most things like this you'll just forget eventually. Some you'll try for a while, then get distracted by other things and forget.
Even worse - much wisdom is around how to be - eg "don't criticise, complain or compare" for greater happiness. Or "be grateful once a day". These are not things you do per se - like going running once a week - but things you need to remember to think, or feel, or states of mind. Very easy to forget to put into practice.
So the bottom line is, there's not that much point spending time to learn things, very few of which actually stick, such that, a year later, you even remember you read them, much less actually put them into practice.
Process is Your Constant Companion
This quickly led me to seek a solution. In this case, the solution was to put a process in place, to increase the percentage of lessons enacted. I can tell you my process - I will at the end, but in fact, the actual process is secondary. The key lesson here is having a process.
The point is this -
Processes are the scaffolding that supports the construct of your life, taking the pressure off your mental resource.
In other words, good processes reduce your need to remember, have willpower, think or solve problems. Good processes codify these things, removing the need for your brain to spend resources solving the same problem again and again.
So for example, most people wake up each morning, considering what to wear. Already at this early stage, you are consuming some of the day's finite cognitive processing resource. And not only that, but the best, fresh morning bit. One process might be "blue suit Monday/Wednesday, grey suit Tuesday/Thursday, chinos and polo shirt casual Friday". One less thing to think about.
That was a simple example. The above example, of retaining information, is more complicated and much more valuable (again, mine below).
If you think this way, you start to see that there are hundreds of areas in your life, big and little, where a good process leads to huge efficiencies and improved outcomes.
Now Multiply and Compound
And now, having realised this, you take the natural next step. You start to look for all of the places, big and small, where you can replace the random, ad-lib of your daily life, with good robust processes. You set a reminder each day at 3pm to meditate for 10 minutes. You codify what to have for lunch each day. You work out how to process blogs that you read and podcasts you listen to. You set a date night with your wife each week. You set a monthly movie and pizza crash night with your kids.
You get the point. The idea is not to turn you into a mindless automaton - you still get to reject date night if you're working late and roll it to next week. The point is you're no longer thinking about it. You don't wake up one day and think "man I haven't hung ut with the kids in months, I just forgot". You don't say "I wish I could meditate but I never find the time".
What you will become is a sort of super human - that guy everybody hates, who seems to tick all the boxes, do yoga 3 times a week; remembers to be grateful each morning and journal each night; and consciously say "I don't do dinner parties, I thought it through and it just doesn't fit into what I want to do with my Saturday nights".
Eventually, you will turn back and see that all of those processes you created; all of those rules, of how to live, how to be efficient, and all those codes you have created for yourself - they are all part of a large construct, which you can think of an operating system for humans. They are a set of codes and rules and processes you live your life by. You could write them down, give them to someone, and THEY could start living that way the next day. This is not unlike a religion, with religious rules, which is in fact also an operating system. Unlike a religion, arguably, your OS is driven by practical considerations, and is tailor made for you. Far from being restrictive, it is enhancing. With a good operating system, you remember more, process more per hour and day, achieve more, are more productive and more successful, however that's defined.
This blog is an attempt to share my operating system. The structure of the blog, with its rules, processes and concepts, and hashtag search terms, is designed to make it consumable, by me and by others. I live by each and every one of the blogposts. Think, what someone's life is like following all of those wisdoms, and actually putting them into practice.
Start building your own OS. You'll never look back.
My Process for Internalising Learnings
So basically, as I read or listen or whatever, my first rule is
Stop to think - When I come across a nugget, I pause, consider it, and persist in the train of thought until I distill it into a conclusion - eg from now on I want to meditate once a day.
Note it down - I have a depository of concepts - this blog is basically it - where I write down the rules I've accepted as permanent additions to my OS.
Create a deployment plan - This depends on the type of thing we're talking about. Something requiring an action might be a periodic reminder. Something more conceptual might be part of my catch all, "read the rules once a week" rule (the way a religious person might always be reading bits of the bible). Processes are noted, as are the rules to follow them (eg my HARD RULE of what to do when I feel bad).
With these three steps, in theory nothing I learn then just disappears from my life. I either consciously keep it; or consciously discard it. I'm sure you can work out your own, better system, tailored for you - but that's mine, which saves me essentially hundreds of otherwise wasted hours of reading and listening and learning.