Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The information diet



Every day, we consume enormous amounts of information. We find it on the internet, on TV, on the radio, in newspapers and books. We attend further training, exchange information with family, friends and colleagues. Often we even learn things we’ve never wanted to know, but we just can’t escape from them. And the worst thing is that we usually forget most of it again or we only remember the facts that are unimportant while not keeping the important information in our memory. The problem: too much information.

Clay Johnson compares this information overload with obesity: We consume too much information, which has many negative side effects such as hypertension, shallow social relationships or screen addiction. In his video, he explains that the solution to this problem is not in filters, but in habits and healthy selections and thus in what we could call a healthy information diet.


The author suggests e.g. that we only choose “healthy” information sources, which means for example that we don’t seek to affirm our beliefs, but rather challenge them. He sees a problem in modern internet sites that filter information according to their users’ habits and thus strengthen this tendency. He also comes up with some advice that is not too new: kill your TV, don’t forget the external world (seeing family and friends, exercising etc.), limit distractions and work with a timer.

The latter is pretty close to what is known as “Pomodoro Technique”, a management technique in which work is broken down into periods of 25 minutes with breaks in between. This is supposed to improve mental agility and generate the experience of flow.

We have reported before that it is beneficial for our attention and concentration to take little breaks while working and for example looking at plants in your office. Furthermore, re-thinking our media consumption is likely to be beneficial not only for our memory, but also for our general well-being. Positive Psychologists like for example Barbara L. Fredrickson found limiting our media consumption to increase the positive emotions in us because the media is usually rather negative and full of violence.

What can we learn from this? Limit the quantity of information you take in and make sure what you take in is of good quality. Good quality means that it is well researched and that it is able to challenge your beliefs instead of confirming them. Take breaks at regular intervals and do something else, like chatting with your colleagues at work or going outside and exercising.

Stay tuned, next week we will report on what else we can do in order to deal with the information overflow!

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