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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)