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Eight Tips to Find Your Information Oasis

Eight Tips to Find Your Information Oasis
Desert

    The Internet Age allows you to get whatever information you want, as much as you want it. This, however, may do you more harm than good. The reason is simple: there is usually far too much noise in the information we consume. It becomes increasingly difficult to get the gems out of it, and it takes a lot of time and energy to deal with. Besides, increasing noise means decreasing clarity, and that means decreasing effectiveness.

    An information oasis – where you can get only the gems of the information without the noise – is the dream land of Information Age. It is the place where the information you consume boost your personal effectiveness rather than decrease it.

    But how do you get there? How can you find your information oasis in the midst of information desert? Here are eight tips:

    1. Minimize your news consumption

    News is probably the most noisy kind of information you could get. The reason is simple: 99% of what you read in the news today would not make it to the history 100 years from now. That implies that 99% of what you read in the news is actually not that important. There are simply too many details than you need. Reading the headlines is more than enough in most situations.

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    2. Read history in place of news

    Rather than reading news, I believe it’s a good idea to read another kind of information which has much less noise: history. History has filtered 99% or more of the unimportant details to give you only the important. Furthermore, history also allows you to see the contexts of the events that happened.

    Why is it important? Because contexts allows you to find patterns which in turn give you invaluable lessons of what to do and what not to do. Why should you repeat the same mistakes made by others throughout the history if you can just avoid it in the first place? News, on the other hand, gives you just details without contexts. You may read hundreds of pages of news without ever capturing the big picture.

    3. Unsubscribe the feeds and magazines which are not essential

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    To find your information oasis, it’s important to reduce your information intake. Besides minimizing your news consumption, you should also unsubscribe the feeds and magazines which are not essential. Check your magazine and feed subscriptions, and assess the value you get from each. Is it really worth your time? Does it help you do the important? Or maybe it actually distract you away from the important?

    4. Read quotes from the great thinkers

    I love quotes because they are the kind of information that has the highest density of wisdom. In the same amount of time, you can get much more insights by reading quotes than by reading other kinds of information. Just go to quote sites like ThinkExist or BrainyQuote, browse the quotes by topics or authors, and internalize what you read there. This is among the purest kinds of information you could get.

    5. For each reading, read no more than what is necessary

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    It is an important key to effective reading. Why should you let all the noise get into your mind if you can just get the gems? So whenever you read something, just read what is necessary and no more. That’s why it’s important to have a clear purpose before you read, especially for readings which require longer time commitments like books. Clear purpose helps you distinguish the necessary from the rest.

    6. While reading, focus on getting actionable ideas

    Another key to effective reading is focusing on getting actionable ideas. Actionable ideas are ideas you can act upon to improve your life. If it’s not actionable, the information might just take up space in your memory without doing anything useful for you. In other words, it might actually be noise.

    7. Check your email no more than twice per day

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    Email is one of the main sources of information noise in the Internet Age. If you check your inbox again and again during your day, not only it introduces a lot of noise into your brain, it also distracts you from actually doing the important. It’s better if you allocate certain periods of time (at most two) during the day to deal with it so that the noise is isolated and the distractions are minimized.

    8. Ruthlessly stop consuming information whenever the value you get is no longer worth it

    Whenever you consume information, don’t forget that diminishing returns applies. Over time, the value you get from consuming the information is decreasing. Eventually it will reach a point where you can get more value by doing other activities than by consuming the information. To minimize noise, you should ruthlessly stop at this point. More than that and you are introducing noise into your life.

    Donald Latumahina is an avid learner who blogs about personal growth and effectiveness at Life Optimizer. Read his articles on 33 Tips to Become a Well Liked Person, How to Develop Your Ideas Exponentially, and 30 Ways to Increase Your Mental Capacity.

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    Donald Latumahina

    Donald Latumahina is the founder of Life Optimizer, a self-improvement blog to help people reach their full potential.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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