Recipes for Bigger ROTIs

Every slice of time is an opportunity to create a bigger ROTI

With only 1,440 minutes in a day, your life is too short to not deliberately focus on increasing the size of your ROTI. Why is the typical ROTI we see around us small? How should we think about recipes for bigger ones?

It has been almost 5 years since I explained why you need to focus on your ROTI. I still see that most people don’t understand how to go about mastering it.

Today, starting with a simple explanation for why small ROTIs persist, I present an easy-to-read structured insight into concepts for increasing your Return on Time Invested (ROTI). By thinking about how to create and then implementing those plans for increasing the size of your ROTI, you will actually increase your Healthspan – have many more healthy and wealthy years ahead. And, you will do so by ensuring that each and every day you live is itself more fulfilling.

I have some simple examples at the end. But first, let me walk you easily through the principles.


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Why does the small ROTI problem persist?
Who cares about your Ultra?
The Large Volume Problem
Restating the 4-D Target
1234Motivation – Changing the Upper Limit of the Integral
1234Internal Culture – Complexity Loving Problem Solver
1234The Implementation Gap
1234The Unholy Trinity
1234Believe in Science
1234Generating Data
1234Generating Constraints
1234Beneficial Budget Constraint
1234Signal Intensity
1234Hormesis – Your Best Friend
1234Risk Concentration
1234Zero Time Investment
1234Compounding with Consistency
1234Multi-Tasking, Killing 2 Birds, Context-Switching
1234Mindfulness Avoidance Warning
1234Super Compensation and Half-Life
12341 to 10


Why does the small ROTI problem persist? [top]

Thinking is not easy. Thinking hard is definitely not easy. It is natural then for us to think about cause and effect in a linear fashion and about single variables and to deduce relationships between approximately contemporaneous observations. We do not naturally appreciate non-linearity, cannot handle multiple variables easily and we do not observe a result that is further down the timeline from an action. Get a 6-pack without ab workouts.

This happens at an individual level but also has translations across various social settings. As an example, let us see what happens within the outdated school system that still exists.

A simple process example would be – the school system in most countries not appreciating that we learn better when there is sufficient play during the day. A simple outcome example in every education system in the world is that students cannot speak the second language taught in their classrooms for years, and many graduate from school feeling they are not good at mathematics. So many children in school for so many years – dismally small ROTIs!

Read: Tackling Teachability
Read: Coding @ 50

After years of formal education, in the workplace, there is a focus by adults to put in long hours instead of thinking with depth and acting with precision to have low error rates and high probabilities of success.

Time for you to break away from all such nonsense approaches to life!

Who cares about your Ultra? [top]

Nobody! And, understandably so. In fact, you may have already wizened up to the realization that you probably shouldn’t either. What will ultimately matter in your life is that Balance is True Mastery.

Read: I don’t care about your Ultra – How big is your ROTI?

The Large Volume Problem [top]

There is no denying that, if you study for more hours, you will learn more. If you run for longer, you will burn more fat. If you lift weights for longer you will build more muscle. If you put in more work at the factory or pencil in more hours on your client’s invoice, you will probably earn more money. That is linear in thought and action. And it is missing the point. Ultimately, time is limited. What is required for a long and joyful life is a shift in focus to not just wanting it all but planning and then actions towards having it all.

Read: As beautifully simple as Puru the Guru’s Wellness Tree
Read: Life Can be Good with French Fries

Restating the 4-D Target [top]

Avoiding pointless debate about what is a good chronological age to live to, what is clear is that no one wants to live a life with physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. And then, assuming you do have a life of joy, it follows quite logically that you want that life to be very long not short. It is only those who are suffering through life who want an end to it.

Read: Ageing & Time-Travel – Reversal and Improvement

The ground reality is that, although lifespans have increased, Healthspans have not increased at the same rate. In addition, and needlessly, a sadly large fraction of a person’s expenditure occurs in the last few years of their life – on sickcare. The physical pain, restrictions and constraints that accompany the last many years is already one bad thing to go through. To be mentally unfit or emotionally like quicksand is no way to wither away in your golden years – they are not actually golden years then. If you expect that in that diminished state you will be spiritually healthy… forget about it! Not happening!

Read: Dying at 80, Living to 100, Horizons Matter


You can jump to the examples further below but it is worth thinking about some of the key pillars on which your creativity around recipes for bigger ROTIs will stand.

Motivation – Changing the Upper Limit of the Integral [top]

If your lifetime happiness is the sum total of happiness from now until your time of death, quite simply realizing that you can actively shift your expected time of death should be good motivation. So, keep reminding yourself of that to stay focused on creating recipes and implementing them.

Read: Dying by 80, Living to 100, Horizons Matter
Read: Mottos for Perpetual Growth
Read: The Courage-Strength-Fear-Weakness Axis

Internal Culture – Complexity Loving Problem Solver [top]

It is natural for us to not want to think hard beyond survival or beyond our base instincts seeking pleasure. Developing an Internal Culture of “I love solving complex problems” will give you a natural mindset for curating and implementing bigger ROTI strategies. The mentally lazy rarely have joyful lives.

The Implementation Gap [top]

All the theories in the world in your head will make no difference. What matters is that you are aware of the elephant in the room – The Implementation Gap. If you need help to get started with closing the gap, get in touch!

The Unholy Trinity [top]

Always be conscious that it is natural for you, like all species, to [i] conserve energy [ii] avoid pain [iii] seek pleasure. That continuous consciousness is what will separate you from others who may look like human beings but have not developed any wisdom in the face of technology to live fully like other animals do, and like their own ancestors did earlier. Read more about it here.

Believe in Science [top]

Belief in good quality scientific evidence will form the foundation of progress you will have in increasing your ROTI. Most good quality scientific papers are based on double-blind randomized controlled studies. The element of ‘control’ means that most often only a single cause-and-effect is being examined (e.g., the impact of coffee on muscle performance). On the one hand, it is important that you have faith in peer-reviewed published research that has been replicated numerous times. On the other hand, it is important that you realize that the increase in ROTI comes about by mixing multiple protocols – and usually, combination protocols are not studied in such published research.

Read: Coffee may keep Cancer at Bay

Generating Data [top]

No matter what good quality published research says, in the end, your individual experience is what will matter in driving your progress. The best way to understand that experience objectively is to collect your own data. You will be running a live case study based on an N=1 sample! Along with collecting numerical data, it is always worthwhile annotating it with your thoughts about the endeavour.

[See this peer-reviewed case study on disease reversal in a wonderful gentleman I mentored.]

Generating Constraints [top]

In the 21st century with all our needs being met automatically, you need to generate constraints to take advantage of the phenomenon that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Deliberately lock your bicycle far from the supermarket entrance instead of parking your car right next to it.

Read: The Accidental Wisdom of Pain-Seekers

Beneficial Budget Constraint [top]

Within a span of 24 hours, we see our waking hours as the productive time within which we have to optimize our actions to get the best possible set of results. It would be wise to realize that, in fact, it is our sleep that produces the best results for us.

The beauty in the power of sleep is that it does productive work while you are physically passive. There is no need for sweating in a workout or pouring over study books. It is during your sleep that you will actually learn, or actually get stronger. Tip: Sleeping pills don’t actually work – you may have your eyes shut but you won’t actually be asleep. Your brain and body will suffer if you rely on them – I guarantee that. If your sleep needs fixing, get in touch!

Signal Intensity [top]

We often ‘just hand in the homework’ and expect to make fast progress or reach very high levels of performance. To work on recipes for bigger ROTIs you have to pay particular attention to the intensity (quality work done per minute). Your genes can be a bit deaf – so to switch them on and off to have the best gene expression, you need to ensure that the signal intensity is not too low.

Hormesis – Your Best Friend [top]

Pretty much all the ROTI you get is from Hormesis – your Best Friend whose existence you should voluntarily make part of your Internal Culture!

Risk Concentration [top]

In trying to increase the ROTI, increasing the numerator and decreasing the denominator, you have to be mindful of not increasing risk concentration to dangerous levels. Remember it is Hormesis that you want, not trauma! Keep the intensity at high not foolish levels.

Time-Slicing [top]

You have responsibilities to others that take up chunks of your day. That’s good. It also makes it that much more important that you consciously think of time slices for the rest of your day. I often observe that those fortunate enough to not need to put bread on the table or do not have others to take care of are the ones who waste their days and are often physically unfit and mentally not so sharp.

Read: Attempting Work-Life Balance? Instead Plan for Time-Optimized Living

Zero Time Investment [top]

Be conscious that within every time slice you usually have the freedom to make a decision that will lead to lower or higher ROTI. For example, for an appetizer, choose a salad over spring rolls, for the main course choose a mixed vegetable dish with greens instead of creamy pasta, and for dessert, choose a bowl of fruit rather than ice cream!

Read: The Paneer-ki-Sabzi Oxymoron
Read: High Octane Fuel to 110

Compounding with Consistency [top]

If you understand that compounding returns are bigger than accumulating simple interest you have to demonstrate that understanding by turning up consistently to earn that interest. Otherwise, accept that zero times any large number is also zero!

Read: Treadmill, Gym, Bored?

Multi-Tasking, Killing 2 Birds, Context-Switching [top]

Multi-tasking of the kind that is frowned upon is definitely to be avoided if you want to do what one might call deep work or focused work. That does not mean you cannot kill 2 birds with one stone (e.g., reading on the train to work).

Given that it is important to minimize diminished returns, the ability to switch out of one focused task into another focused task is also a trainable skill. Although it will not happen overnight, your ability to do rapid context-switching will improve if you stick with it.

Mindfulness Avoidance Warning [top]

In trying to create bigger ROTIs it is important to not make the mistake of doing away with mindfulness. Do not make it a habit to watch TV or read while eating. I have already advised against chatting with others as a regular habit when running with mindfulness.

Super-Compensation and Half-Life [top]

Two principles with regards to response and adaptation to stimuli that we bear in mind while creating recipes are that [a] everything changes [b] everything has a natural duration for change. Nodding in agreement is not enough – you have to truly internalize this about nature and the universe. Understand what the natural response time and expected duration for improvement are in the specific area you are focusing on. You will not learn to read Arabic fluently in 24 hours. Doing bench presses twice a day will not get you to turn your skinny chest into a muscular one.

Read: Your Wealth and Health – Robustness, Resilience and Antifragility
Read: Technique, Form, Progression

Portfolios [top]

Your life is a portfolio of actions. As a result, you can construct an optimum payoff by paying attention to:

Diversification – to push the envelope from different directions to move more smoothly and surely towards your goal [top]

Interaction – because your goal itself is multifaceted you can hit multiple targets in the same unit of time. For instance, your goal for when you are 80 might be to teach history and mathematics at the nearest town’s high school. If you are unidimensional in your thinking and you have already promoted yourself from a public bus to a motorcycle at 30 and a car at 40, the chances that you will be impressive to students when you are 60 is very low. Ditch the fossil fuel vehicles and start pedalling to a better future. Be impressive to students ¼ your age! If you don’t like the attachment for physical objects, just walk if you don’t want to own a bicycle! [top]

Read: How Green are My Movements? 5000 journeys later
Read: Why I Prefer NO Helmet


Today was about concepts for playing with strategies and tactics to create bigger ROTIs. To assist you with understanding the concepts presented, here are a few implementable examples with increasing degrees of complexity or difficulty. I will write again specifically with many more Big ROTI examples.

Example 1 – Zero Physical Effort – Sleep

Get your sleep sorted out. It is likely to give you the highest ROTI possible.

Example 2 – Minimum Physical Effort – Walk the Talk

If you are on a phone call that doesn’t need you to write with pen/paper or work on a computer screen, do the talking while walking. Decline meeting friends for coffee – do a walk-talk instead.

Example 3 – Small Physical Effort – Take the Stairs

Choose to take the stairs – at the mall, at the airport, at the station. Leave the elevators and escalators for those who really need it.

Example 4 – Some Physical Effort – Take 2 Stairs at a Time

Even if you do this with alternate floors in the beginning, “taking 2 stairs at a time” will eventually become your norm.

Example 5 – Some Mental Focus – Using the Mouse

Use your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use your left hand for the mouse. You will be almost as good with that other hand within a few days.

Example 6 – More Mental Focus – Using the Knife

Use your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use your left hand when cutting or chopping in the kitchen. You will be almost as good with that other hand within a few days. Be focused on the task rather than worried about cutting your finger.

Example 7 – Combining Physical and Emotional Effort – Fasting

So easy to organize – and huge benefits!

Example 8 – More Physical and Emotional Effort – Exercise in a Fasted State

Do away with any obsession with the need to eat before or during a workout, this will help you get the better of any remaining mental weakness.

Example 9 – Even More Physical Effort and Emotional Effort – Exercise in the Hot Sun in a Fasted State

And the more you expose your skin to the high sun, the better.

Example 10 – Combining Physical, Mental and Emotional Effort – Exercise in the Hot Sun in a Fasted State while Reviewing Language Learning Lessons in your Head

One of my favourites, I do this about 3 times each week, most weeks of the year.


You can do it too… create a recipe and start cooking.



Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. […] Appreciating that of the many constraints that you face it is time that is the most important one that remains throughout your life it makes sense to think about how your process-based goals, be they health-based or skills-based, are met within your typical week’s schedule. Once you know about your time available explicitly for exercise you can use that for those activities that need scheduling e.g., yoga class, matching up with a tennis partner. Other types of activities you may be able to merge into your normal day e.g., cycling to get groceries, walking while talking. The possibilities are endless and I talk about the idea in Recipes for Bigger ROTIs. […]


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