July 29, 2023




23 of the World’s Most Useful Mental Models

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • The following are 23 of the practical mental models I’ve found for improving daily life.

  • They include productivity, prioritisation, and thinking frameworks that help simplify daily actions.

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23 of the World’s Most Useful Mental Models

Good and Bad Procrastination

Good procrastination is avoiding work with 0 chance of being mentioned in your obituary—like errands.

”Unless you're working on the biggest things you could be, you're type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you're getting done.”

h/t @paulg

Speed Matters

The faster you do things, the less activation energy is required to do any one thing.

To avoid procrastination, keep the activation energy low by shortening the timeframe for the work that needs to be done, and work faster.

h/t @jsomers


We’ve been led to believe that our everyday problems—weight loss, productivity, saving money—require complex solutions.

This is called ‘artificial complexity.’

Decomplication is the process of boiling problems down to their simplest form.

h/t @nateliason

Sunk Cost Fallacy

You irrationally cling to things that have already cost you something and use valuable mental energy doing so:

• Projects

• Investments

• Relationships

To escape, ask yourself:

• Had I not already invested in this, would I do so today?

Cut the sunk costs.

Consider Unintended Consequences

Before making a decision, ask, "What are the possible unplanned outcomes that could occur?"

Focus on the possible second-order effects—can you live with ALL of them?

“We make choices, but we don't always choose the consequences.” Sean Covey

Via Negativa

When we have a problem, our natural instinct is to add a new habit or buy a solution.

But usually, you improve your life by subtracting instead.

The foods you avoid are more important than the foods you eat.

Subtracting distractions is the key to productivity.

Help This Person

Every time you encounter another person, think: "How can I help this person?"

It's not altruistic.

Nothing else can so quickly accelerate your career and improve your quality of life.

Helpful people don't ask "how can I help?"

They just help.

Reversible vs. Irreversible Decisions Framework

Irreversible decisions are 'one-way doors.'

They must be made slowly and deliberately.

Reversible decisions are 'two-way doors.'

These decisions can and should be made quickly.


Involves assuming that your decision has failed and working backwards to determine what the potential causes were.

This process has multiple benefits:

• Removes overconfidence and irrational optimism

• Reveals blind spots

• Simplifies thinking

h/t @KleInsight

10/10/10 Rule

We're all guilty of making decisions without thinking about long term consequences.

To avoid this, ask:

• How will I feel about this 10 minutes from now?

• 10 months from now?

• 10 years from now?

This helps clarify the decision that results in a win/win/win.

Think for Yourself

Thinking for yourself is life’s greatest competitive advantage—you see opportunities others don’t.


• Read History

• Ask, “Is it true?”

• Meet different types of people

• Be less aware of conventional beliefs

• Cultivate independent-minded friends

The World-Class Framework

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Your personal brand is the sum of the thousands of micro-acts you put in over the course of your career or life.

Choose to be “World-Class” in every moment, luck will find you.

North Star

In a company, a north-star is the one metric that the company optimizes for over all others.

It’s the metric that produces the most business value over the long term when optimized.

For example, Airbnb's north-star metric is “# of nights booked.”

Calendar-Priority Alignment

1. “What are your priorities?”

2. “If I look at your calendar, would it be obvious to me that those are your priorities?”

Hack: Use your Calendar as your to-do list so that your highest priority to-dos actually get done.

h/t @rabois


If you want to be persuasive, arrange for your recipient to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.

What we present first changes the way people experience what we present next.

The more generous your offer ‘seems’, the more attractive it will be.

Deep Work

Deep work is single-tasking, limiting your context switching and distractions in your immediate working environment.

Shallow work is logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.

h/t Cal Newport

Keep Your Identity Small

We struggle to think objectively about things that become part of our identity.

The more labels we give ourselves, the more emotionally we respond.

The best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.

Be nimble and hard to define.

Discipline Equals Freedom

”Discipline and Freedom seem like they sit on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are actually very connected.

Freedom is what everyone wants.

But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline.”

h/t @jockowillink

Procrastination Equation

To decrease procrastination:

• Increase the expectancy of success

• Increase the value and pleasantness of the task

• Decrease impulsiveness by removing distractions

• Decrease the delay of reward through deadlines

h/t @pierssteel

2-Minute Rule

“If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.”

Don’t let small tasks add up and create a mental overhang.

Do it on the spot if <2-minutes, decline to action it, or schedule it for a specific future date.

The Forgetting Curve

Memories weaken over time.

If we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information, we remember less and less of it as the hours, days and weeks go by.

The way to combat this curve is through spaced repetition.

Tim Ferriss Discomfort Razor

Your success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you're willing to have.

Growth and comfort don't exist in the same room.

Act accordingly.

h/t @tferriss

The Never-Ending Now

We live in an endless cycle of ephemeral content consumption.

We’re a click away from the greatest authors of all time, from Plato to Tolstoy, but we default to social media and the news instead.

Consume wisely, or be consumed.

h/t @davidperell

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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