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How to Use the Low Information Diet for Better Day-to-Day Productivity

How to Use the Low Information Diet for Better Day-to-Day Productivity

Here’s a piece of news you might not be familiar with yet: You don’t need every possible bit of information to be able to function normally every day…

Information overload really is a plague of the 21st century. There’s just so much stuff going on at any given day, and so many people reporting it, that keeping up with everything is literally impossible.

But some people still try to do it anyway for some mysterious reasons. The fact is that the urge to get more and more information is one of the leading reasons of stress.

Okay, I just made up that last thing. But I’m sure that it’s at least one of the reasons. It has to be.

For instance, there’s a popular belief that more informed people have more success in life, so if you’re not up-to-date with things, others will overtake you on the path to victory (whatever victory is for you).

To some degree this is true. I mean, you have to know something in order to be able to succeed. I don’t think anyone has ever succeeded on lack of knowledge alone. However, the real problem is that it’s hard to stop once you start consuming information. This, in result, can sabotage your whole ability to get things done.

I had this problem once. I felt that I needed to know everything before I could do anything. And this was a big trap, because most of the days I simply ended up doing nothing.

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Then I switched to the low information diet, and since then the information overload problems are gone. Here’s what I did.

Don’t consume what doesn’t concern you

Quite a lot of available information (either on websites or on TV) does not concern you at all.

A simple test you can do is watch the news and count every story that has a direct, short-term impact on you in any way. For instance, more money being shifted towards healthcare has an impact, but not short-term, so it doesn’t count.

So … what’s the score?

Since now that you’ve probably discovered that next to no stories on the news have any form of impact on your life, you can probably kiss your TV goodbye for good.

And don’t worry, if something really important happens, people will tell you anyway. You don’t need to watch the news “just in case.”

Don’t consume information from general news websites

The thing with general news sites is that they are targeted towards general public, which is quite obvious. What this means in practice is that every bit of news has to appeal to everyone, which results in it being so general that you can rarely get anything out of it for yourself.

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If you want general news you can simply get a quick glance at a newspaper stand on your way to get coffee.

Consuming information from websites within your niche or range of interests is a lot better idea. And this is actually information you can use in practice. However, be careful here too (more on this in a minute).

Don’t consume anything negative

This may be the simplest and most effective trick here.

The fact is that there are way too many negative things being reported worldwide. This is quite understandable as a negative story makes a lot better news than a positive one, but it’s still no good for you.

Negative information brings nothing of value into your life. Block it completely. You probably have some problems of your own, so there’s really little point in wasting time worrying about problems of people you don’t even know.

    Consume only the bare minimum of information

    Now let’s talk about your work and getting some tasks done. Chances are that every task you have to take care of during the day requires some amount of new information before you can even start handling it.

    Finding the information is not the difficult part here. What is challenging is being able to stop searching and start doing the thing. Especially if you’re not conscious about it.

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    Here’s what I do to find the perfect stopping point when consuming information. Before I start working, I simply set a list of things I need to get in place in order to finish a given task. Then I try to be really ruthless about what information I consume. I don’t click links that simply seem interesting, I do it only when the thing still fits within the boundaries of minimal information required.

    Try this technique for yourself, you’ll probably find it useful too.

    One day a week for learning

    Even though you’re on the low information diet you still need to eat something. But make it a quality “meal,” which in terms of information means spending some time on learning and expanding your knowledge.

    The place where you go for this information is up to you.

    The point here is to acknowledge that some amount of information is still required to grow in your personal life as well as in your career, and in most cases, just one day a week is really enough.

    Create a barrier

    The information plague these days is so vast that simply not looking for it won’t be enough to keep you on the diet. Creating a barrier is a lot better idea.

    You can do this in a couple of ways. For instance, throw away your TV (or at least don’t watch it for 4 hours a day), don’t bookmark any news sites, install a blocker plugin that doesn’t allow you to access Facebook during certain hours, or even install a separate web browser for work purposes only.

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    Actually, you should design a whole distraction free workspace for yourself if you want to be a productive entrepreneur, productive writer, productive blog owner, or find effectiveness in any other area. (Also, if you want to be really productive you should consider getting familiar with a methodology like Getting Things Done).

    We, humans, are an easily distracted species. All it takes is a phone call and you lose a whole hour of your workday. Therefore, erasing all possible channels of distraction is ALWAYS a great idea.

    Apart from not checking Facebook every five minutes, you can also not use any Twitter apps sending notifications straight to your desktop, don’t remain logged in to Gmail permanently, and turn off your phone when working (this one does wonders, trust me).

    The strange fact is that the more isolated you are, the better results you’ll have. “Trust me, I’m an engineer.”

    That’s it for my advice about the low information diet, but what’s your opinion? Have you tried going through a similar thing yourself?

    Featured photo credit: Broadcast Tunnel via Shutterstock and inline photo by YuMaNuMa via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    Karol Krol

    Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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    Last Updated on September 11, 2019

    Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

    Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

    How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

    Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

    To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

    Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

    Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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    • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
    • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
    • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
    • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

    Benefits of Using a To-Do List

    However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

    • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
    • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
    • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
    • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
    • You feel more organized.
    • It helps you with planning.

    4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

    Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

    1. Categorize

    Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

    It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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    2. Add Estimations

    You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

    Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

    Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

    3. Prioritize

    To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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    • Important and urgent
    • Not urgent but important
    • Not important but urgent
    • Not important or urgent

    You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

    Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

    4.  Review

    To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

    For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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    Bottom Line

    So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

    To your success!

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    Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

    Reference

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