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Warning: Too Much Information is Dangerous to Your Health

by Celine on March 18th, 2008

Image by Daniel Wildman, taken from stock.xchng


“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” - Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish Philosopher

You wake up, thanks to the alarm clock radio, which gives you the weather report, along with news about Paris Hilton’s latest embarrassing moment. You show up for work and sit in a meeting with an agenda as long as the Great Wall of China. Sadly, the Great Wall is more fascinating.

You then proceed to your workstation to find a few hundred emails, all from your colleagues, where you are CC’ed for every message - even if it has nothing to do with you. During a break, you head to the water cooler and the same colleagues pull you into a conversation about the latest office gossip. You head back to your workstation and pretend to work, when you’re really reading RSS feeds from all 300 blogs you’ve subscribed to.

At night, you come home and watch the news. The man on the screen is talking, and you manage to catch the headlines crawling on the bottom bar. Not only that, you go online and post your comments on CNN.com (or the website of the program you’re watching) and voice your opinion. You watch supplemental videos on YouTube - to make sure you don’t miss anything. And, before you sleep, you take another peek at your email inbox. 50 new messages.

Sound familiar?

If you keep up that lifestyle, you’ll soon be roadkill on the information superhighway.


Because information intake = attention. And honestly, most information isn’t worth your attention.

Notice that for each thing you pay attention to, you’re forced into an action, no matter how small. Whether it’s the simple act of listening or taking on an irrelevant task - you do something about the information you receive. You file it, delete it, or do something about it - even mentally.

You need to define what’s essential. What do you need to know? When do you need to know it? Where can you find this information? When you determine what’s important and clear out the clutter, you’ll notice that you’re less “busy” throughout the day. Less information means fewer things to pay attention to and less things to do. In other words, less stress.

I’ve already talked about reducing one’s email, but here are other information materials you can cut back on:

  • Parts of the newspaper/news website that are uninteresting to you. For example, if you’re not into sports, don’t read the sports section. Scan the headlines and read only the news items that you need.
  • RSS feeds/ websites to visit. Determine the top 2 websites of each niche or subject you’re interested in and subscribe only to those. If you have too many subscriptions, you’ll notice that most topics are covered by several blogs. You’ll be reading the same information more than once.
  • Random everyday gossip (including celebrities). Are you that uninteresting that you take some time out of your day just to hear about who slept with who (or what) and who owns the new Jaguar in the parking lot? Why not spend some time on your personal goals instead. After all, when you’re not looking, they’re probably gossiping about you too. Besides, gossip leads to trouble.
  • Random web surfing. It’s fun to do it once in a while, but most people - myself included - tend to do it for at least an hour a day.  I’m trying to cut back by remembering my eyestrain after hours of pointless web surfing.

When evaluating how much unnecessary information you receive each day, remember that it all boils down to your goals and priorities.  If it has nothing to do with your goals, either drop it completely or take in less of it.  So the key thing here is to define what’s essential to you.
Are you over-informed? What type of information is essential to you?  Have you done anything to cut back on the information you receive?

POSTED IN: General work pimps

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