How to augment your intellectual capacity when your brain is on overlo


Our brains are overloaded. Roger E. Bohn and James E. Brief on the International Data Business Heart at UC San Diego recommend the common American took in round 34 gigabytes of information per day in 2009 (here’s the original estimate, by way of NYT). That was a yr earlier than Instagram was launched. No person was looking “side hustle” on Google but. Cryptocurrency wasn’t mainstream but. Regardless of the quantity was in 2009, I’m nearly sure that we’re processing extra right now. No surprise why we’re continuously feeling brain overload.

Making an attempt more durable or grinding merely received’t be sufficient. Data pace is increasing method past our brain’s capacities. Between new know-how and platforms, and extra folks attempting multi-hyphenate careers, the whole lot is transferring quicker. They usually don’t educate these things at school, so we every want to discover our personal methods to address the accelerating tempo of life.

Augment your brain with private infrastructure

There’s loads of discuss on synthetic intelligence, however a lot much less so on intelligence amplification (or as Mihnea Moldoveanu calls it, “intelligent artificiality“). I’ve written about my quite simple answer earlier than, which is personal infrastructure. To recap, private infrastructure is something that makes disagreeable duties (like chores) in your work and life:

  • Extra enjoyable (like a Dyson does for vacuums)
  • Simpler to do (requiring much less private/emotional motivation)
  • Utterly automated (so that you don’t even want to take into account it!)

I wrote about personal infrastructure in 2020, or so I believed. Because it seems, I’d really first mentioned it in Lifehacker in 2014. I’d outlined it otherwise, however right here’s an excerpt from the piece:

I used to be getting lunch with certainly one of my closest associates and we began speaking about know-how and infrastructure. I had contemplated out loud whether or not this could possibly be utilized on a microscopic degree—one thing like a “private infrastructure”—primarily the programs one particular person makes use of to get her work carried out. Elements of my system embody not checking Facebook until 6PM and going for walks to refresh my mind. One was an concept prolonged from writer Tim Ferriss and 37signals’ Matt Linderman, and the opposite was impressed by an interview with Natalie Portman (time spent on routine #3).

I want I may say I used to be stunned, however I knew I’d forgotten a ton of necessary stuff with no correct method of taking notes. However nonetheless, this simply goes to present what number of good concepts I’ve—and also you would possibly nonetheless have—percolating round and gestating in your brain.

In order for you to ease your brain overload right now, I’d extremely encourage you to begin writing these ideas down, right now, in a single place that may assist you keep organized. Simply begin writing at Medium or WordPress. Or if you would like to be extra personal, right here’s my method with index playing cards and Notion, my very own model of Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten. Wherever it is, simply make sure that it’s one thing you’ll verify every single day. Don’t write it in a pocket book, for those who suppose there’s a good likelihood you’ll by no means verify it once more when you’re carried out with it.

If you happen to’re interested by how the remainder of my private infrastructure seems, check this post out. I additionally discuss extra about it right here with Tom Osman for the Shiny Object Social Club.

Work on your work, not simply in it

In entrepreneurship tradition, there’s an concept of working on your enterprise, not simply in it. Meaning recruiting, constructing processes, and making issues that may function with out you doing it your self.


Equally, within the Lifehacker piece, I’d advocated that the reader ought to spend at the very least an hour a day attempting to work on their work, not simply in it. The article was framed round one-hour routines that may make a freelancer’s day simpler, so I wrote:

Keep in mind, this is solely a one hour behavior although—it’s straightforward to go overboard and spend half a day implementing a brand new productiveness system. Don’t!

Trying again, I’ve blended emotions about this. On one hand, I fully agree with my previous self—most programs ought to find a way to study and apply inside one hour. A note-taking system is instance of this. Just start.

Nevertheless, some programs are extra complicated and highly effective and would possibly take a little bit bit extra time to work out. You may chew it up an hour at a time, nevertheless it would possibly simply be a greater studying course of for those who booked the week off and spent 4 hours a day, quite than 4 workweeks at 1 hour a day. It’s necessary to bear in mind, as I wrote in my 2020 piece:

With every hour we spend working on our work — working on our private infrastructure, we’re probably saving dozens, lots of, or 1000’s of hours on future labor.

A few easy examples, for me: saving repetitive emails (e.g., work samples, introductions, and many others.) as templates so I flip half-hour of gathering data into 5 minutes of writing. Signing up for newsletters and Slack teams that push data that I didn’t even know I used to be lacking out on. Getting good at recording movies in order that I can talk asynchronously with individuals who need to work on publications together. Studying (lastly!) to work with digital assistants.

One other instance: making time to lastly learn How to Read a Book has probably saved me 1000’s of hours over my lifespan. I can higher perceive books, but in addition make higher selections on which books I want to learn and don’t. (I share the best ones in my newsletter.) I solely want I had learn it earlier. Just read the book, and take notes so that you don’t overlook it.

The rewards of managing your brain’s load

The time you get again is linear, however the issues you are able to do with that point can compound. For instance, with each e-mail I write transferring ahead, I save myself 25 minutes of gathering data. Or at the very least 10 minutes of trying to find an e-mail to copy and paste.

Comparable to how a greenback not invested is not the identical as a greenback saved, an hour saved isn’t simply an hour earned—it’s really an hour you are able to do one thing else with tomorrow—and the day after that, and after that, till the top of your work life. In these 25 minutes, I can chill out, however I also can learn a e-book, or make progress on a weblog submit, or one thing like that.

It’s not only a productiveness factor, both, at the very least to me. Each minute I presently spend confused, context-switching, and unclear comes with an emotional price too. So a private infrastructure can contribute to a sure sense of wellness. For me, I discover I don’t stress a lot about worrying about what will get carried out when; it frees my brain up to be more creative.

The important thing is, in fact, to take into account the meta. The subsequent time you’re employed on a process, work out how one can make it extra enjoyable, simpler to do, or fully automated. Typically it means spending cash on new instruments or studying to work with different folks. As soon as you work it out, it’ll all be value it—and your brain will lastly begin to really feel out there once more.

This article initially appeared on Herbert Lui’s blog and is reprinted with permission.

Herbert Lui is the writer of Creative Doing, a e-book of fifty prompts that unblock creativity for your work, pastime, or subsequent profession. He writes a newsletter that shares three nice books each month. He is the editorial director at WorkOS and Wonder Shuttle.