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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 March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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