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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 August 6, 2020

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

    Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

    It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

    • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

    • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

    • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

    In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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    Different Folks, Different Strokes

    Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

    Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

    People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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    Productivity and Trust Killer

    Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

    That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

    Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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    A Flexible Remote Working Policy

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

    There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

    Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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    It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

    What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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