The Information Diet
I recently re-read The Information Diet and here’s summary + some titbits of my own I thought were relevant:
The problem is not information overload, it’s information overconsumption, the former means managing the intake of vast quantities of information in new and more efficient ways. Information overconsumption means we need to fund new ways to be selective about our intake. And while it’s good to disconnect, “social medial vacations/internet sabbaticals/etc” are all ways to avoid the real problem. You need to change your consumption habits.
An information diet is not about consuming less, it’s about consuming right. Consume deliberately. Take information over affirmation.
- Start by mastering data literacy — knowing where to get accurate and reliable data, what to do with it, how to filter, how to process, how to synthesise, how to draw accurate conclusions and how to think critically.
- Regain your attention, choose to good and constructive info over clickbait articles and social feeds, limit your intake (diversity is good but also realise when it’s too much). Worry about consuming consciously and making the information work for you rather than the other way around.
- Remove distractions, silence your phone and social notifications, get rid of advertisements (try a browser extension like uBlock Origin), block sites if you need to (try RescueTime or StayFocused), unsubscribe to email feeds. The goal is to move yourself from a reactive model of computing, where you are constantly being tugged and pulled in every direction and responding to every notification that comes across your screen, into a conscious model, where you are in complete control of what you are paying attention to.
- Improve your focus (try the Pomodoro technique — 10 to 25 minutes of focused work followed by a short break. Clay Johnson actually suggests to do five intervals of 5:1 in one hour and use the remaining time to rest, then add 30 seconds to the work portion everyday. I prefer to follow my BRAC cycle and do 40 minutes of work and 20 of rest. Experiment and see what works for you), notice when you get distracted and put your mind back to the work you were doing. His diet included: email twice a day, one hour max for news intake in the morning, one hour reading fiction, one hour for entertainment (television, social media) — total time less than 6h per day, which should be your goal too.
- Now, onto the topic of what info to consume:
- Seek to get information directly from the sources. When you consume overly processed information, you are more subject to succumbing to your own bias and other forms of misreporting. In order to consume this information safely, you must do the extra work of investigating source material, figuring out the intent of the person delivering that information and determining that information ‘s effects on you, assessing quality, veracity, credibility and point of view.
- He advocates that local news often is more actionable and relevant to the individual.
- People tend to seek out only information that confirms their beliefs (confirmation bias) — this limits your exposure to good information and cause you to suffer from forms of ignorance. Moreover, it’s though having your ideas challenged that they get better. So, choose to balance your inputs, get a better perspective and learn where others come from, make an effort to keep your biases in check.
- It’s also important to seek out diverse topics of information, as the synthesis of information from different fields helps us create better ideas and keep us from losing our social breadth — we have more to talk about than the specialised knowledge of our particular field. Though, at the same time, pick a niche sector and master it.
- Give your mind a chance to digest the information you have taken in: take notes, review them, reread if necessary, meditate, take the time to analyse and reflect.
- Also synthesis is an important step. Content creation and self-expression can useful components of a healthy diet because they help you understand better what you say, both through the internal reflection it takes to make your finding comprehensible to others and through the public feedback you get from putting your content in front of others. So consider writing.