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How do you optimize your consumption habits and become a learning machine?

What do I mean by “learning machine”? I mean someone who’s always acquiring knowledge, learning new things, and soaking everything up around them like a sponge. How do you become that?

Obviously, we all learn things every day, but how do you do that on hyperspeed? How do you acquire a ton of knowledge around you way faster than everyone else?

The key is to optimize your consumption.

Stop Splitting Your Focus

To learn, you must consume. You must consume knowledge from other people and other sources. You’re consuming to learn, but you have to optimize that consumption.

We often come across something interesting and think, “I’d like to learn that. That seems interesting. I’m going to click on that link in my feed. I’m going to watch that video,” and we tell ourselves that we’re learning, but what are we really doing?

We are splitting our focus.

We’re splitting up our focused work day by watching videos or reading links, even if they’re educational.

Articles, courses, videos, and furthering our education are all good things.

But if they’re breaking up the focus in our day, we become less effective.

What I recommend is deferring your consumption to a later date or time.

Save Interesting Articles or Videos for Later Instead of Consuming Them Now

Here’s a simple shift that will change everything for you: defer your learning to a later day by saving things as you come across them.

I use an app called Instapaper (or you can use Pocket) to mark something as “read later” and add it to a list.

This way, you continue on in your focus mode, and when you see something interesting—a potential distraction even if it’s educational—you save it. You add podcasts, videos, and articles to a list, and you defer that learning. You defer that consumption.

As a result of deferring your consumption, you have more productive and focused time in your day.

You get more done and then you get to the end of your day and what do you have? You have a list of things that you can learn from.

Now, compare this to people who mix it all together. They go through their day with semi-focused work and these little spurts of learning time, so they learn something and they have to get refocused on their work. Then, they get to the end of their day and they say, “Well, I got some work done and I learned something, so I guess I’m going to goof off now.”

Whereas the person who has optimized their consumption habits and deferred that learning time has productive, focused work time during the day. They get to the end of their day and they have all of this educational reading queued up for them, so they’re much more productive.

They’re making much better use of their time, they have more focus in a day, and they’re learning on hyperspeed.

What Does Deferring Consumption Look Like?

In very practical terms, it looks like this: when you take a break and you go on social media, or a friend sends you a link in text message, you come across a video, or something else that you’re going to learn from, you save it.

You set it aside and then you fill in the gaps of your life with learning.

When I go to brush my teeth, I have a queue of things I want to learn, so I turn on a podcast while I’m brushing my teeth. Then, when I go to shower and get ready for bed, I have a bluetooth speaker so it continues seamlessly.

When I’m riding as a passenger in a car, I’m going through my reading list. Because I’ve deferred that learning, I always have a queue.

Rather than just poking at it with half-focus during the day, getting to the end of your day and having nothing to consume, and ending up wasting your time, always have a queue.

Use that queue throughout your day to fill in the gaps with education.

Fight the Urge to Consume in the Moment

I want you to try this: as you go throughout your day and you come across links, articles, and videos, I want you to save them. You can use an app like Instapaper or Pocket, and anything that has “read later” functions.

Save those links, fight the urge to pursue those distractions as they hit you, defer them for later, and focus more on the work that you do on a day-to-day basis. Then, when you have those gaps in your life, go through the queue.

It’s all about focus. Focus on learning.

The more focus you have on something, the more you’re going to get out of it.

You can get much more out of reading fewer articles with full focus than you will reading a bunch of articles with half-focus throughout your day.