Consistency Beats Intensity: Personal Development, Part I

The first two parts of the series deal with the Financial and Health aspects of the Consistency philosophy. The last part of this series is effectively the vehicle in which the other aspects rely on: Personal Development.

Personal development entails all of the things that we do to improve our skills or abilities, which in turn enables us to be more productive, earn more money, and manage our time better. A high personal development skill gives us the necessary tools to increase our income or profits (and so improve the Financial aspect), as well as solidify the disciplines we need in our daily life (which improves the Health aspect).

I read a book called the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and it inspired me to think of ways to implement the principles discussed in it. In this book he debunked the Quantum LeapĀ phenomenon which states that success comes in one big leap or change. Instead he argued that success is the result of continuous, progressive small actions towards a goal. This is the same essence as the Consistency beats Intensity philosophy.

In this article we will discuss some examples on how the Consistency philosophy can be applied in the realm of personal development.

Conquer books a few pages at a time

Books may seem to be very daunting especially if it looks thick and may take time to finish. If you are an avid reader of fiction books (romance novels, epic adventures, etc.), you do not mind the thickness or the volume of the book as you enjoy reading it. As a matter of fact, you look forward to a thick book as you know that you will have more time to enjoy the story.

For non-fiction books, however, reading them may be a painful slog for some people especially if they find it boring or uninteresting. I do not recommend reading a book for the sole purpose of finishing it as you will need at least a bit of motivation or purpose on why you want to read a certain book.

However even though we want to read something, sometimes we find that we do not have the time to do it because of our daily schedule. As a result we tend to not read anything at all! This is unfortunate as books (especially non-fiction) serve to broaden our knowledge on subjects and increase our learning.

One solution for this is to read books a few pages at a time. For instance, let’s say that a large book has 200 pages in it. If we resolve to read at least 5 pages per day, it will take around 40 days to finish a book, or 1.5 months. Doing this for the whole year will result in you reading at least 8 books!

Reading 5 pages can take you around 10 to 30 minutes to accomplish depending on the topic and the volume of content. This 10 to 30 minutes of time does not need to be a strict block of time for reading, but can be used while there is “down time” during the day. For example:

  • While waiting for the bus to arrive
  • While riding in the bus (I personally cannot do this due to motion sickness)
  • While waiting for your laundry to finish

Listen to audio books and podcasts

If you still find it hard to read a physical book for only a few pages each day, there is a better alternative: audio. Personally I think this is one of the best “life hacks” that most people look over or ignore. The value and convenience of listening to audio books and podcasts cannot be denied based on my own personal experience.

One of the disadvantages of reading a physical book is that you need to actually hold the book and look at it with your eyes. This results in a requirement of physical availability and a certain level of concentration. This is where the audio format shines as your eyes and hands remain available to do other tasks. There is still a minimum concentration requirement needed though to understand the contents of the audio.

In earlier years, audio books and programs are distributed and listened to using cassette tapes, which is bulky and can only contain 1-2 hours of content for each cassette. Advances in technology brought us the Compact Disc, which although less bulky than the cassette tape, still can only contain about the same hours of content. Both the cassette tape and the Compact Disc requires a certain hardware to play, and this hardware can be both expensive and bulky as well.

Further advances in technology resulted in compressed audio formats such as the MP3 or the AAC formats which means that Compact Discs can now have hours of content several magnitude than that of the previous formats.

The next iteration of technology drastically reduced the size of the players themselves: instead of playing Compact Discs, these devices can now directly play the compressed audio formats itself, making it possible to store hundreds of hours worth of audio in a small device.

At the time of this writing the dominant technology in the marketplace is the smartphone, which is essentially a multi-purpose handheld computer. This means that in addition to making calls and text messages, you can now use email, internet messaging, watch videos and listen to audio all in a single device.

With the proliferation of smartphones, people already have a mechanism for consuming audio books and podcasts. As one no longer has a need to buy a separate device for it, this is indeed one of the most untapped sources of knowledge and information we can utilize.

The advantages are the same as when reading an actual book during your “down time”, however as you no longer need to hold something while consuming its contents, this opens up new opportunities within the day on when we can listen to books and podcasts:

  • you can listen while on the train or on the bus even if you have motion sickness
  • you can listen not only while you are waiting for your laundry, but even while you are doing the laundry
  • while cleaning the house or tending your garden and backyard
  • while eating (provided that you are eating alone)
  • while taking a walk or jogging

Let’s try to see how much time we use while doing the activities listed above. Note that these are just wild estimates and will vary for each individual:

  • Commute time is around 2 hours per day due to traffic congestion and other factors.
  • Cleaning and household chores may be done only during the weekends for 2 hours which averages to about 10 minutes per day.
  • Eating may take up to 1 hour per day, depending on the situation such as who you are eating with.
  • Exercise such as going to the gym, running, or jogging is around 30 minutes per day.

Adding them all results in 3 hours and 40 minutes of available time to listen to audio content. This amount of time is already half of an average book, and around 4 to 7 podcast episodes. This means that in just two days of doing this during your “down time”, you will have finished a book or 10 podcast episodes on average! By doing this for the entire month you would have consumed more books and content than what you have read for the past years. This clearly illustrates the advantage of consuming audio content over conventional methods.

In the next part of the article we will explore more practical examples of using the Consistency philosophy for personal development. In particular, this same concept can be used to create our own content instead of just consuming them!

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