Here are two seemingly conflicting ideas I’ve heard tossed around: 

  1. To be well-rounded in today’s world, you must strength-train your attention to be able to read a Tweet-storm and then delve into longer nonfiction like Kahnman and Traversky’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Therefore, you should consume LOTS of different information at varying levels of difficulty (podcasts, tweets, to long biographies). 

  2. The news is mostly not news-worthy. When you are fire-hosed with information, you will receive 1% signal and 99% noise. For example, if I look at the stock market every day, it will fluctuate greatly and will only increase my anxiety. But if I look at it once a year I will see the larger trend. Daily information is harmful and only confuses us, therefore I should limit my consumption of info. 

Yet, you can have both. You can consume lots of information AND you can separate the signal from the noise. 

The distinction lies in the type of media you’re consuming, how you’re consuming it, and WHY you’re consuming it. 

  1. What: Perhaps you only read the Economist or the Guardian, but totally ignore the radio, Twitter, and Youtube. Maybe you’re only on Instagram and never read a book. The trap you can fall into is creating a filter bubble that fuels your anxiety. The problem is most people stick to a couple of mediums. Solution: Don’t get stuck at just one level of information. We should be getting information on all levels of the spectrum. 

  2. How: Constantly switching between emails, our work, watching Youtube and reading a peer-reviewed journal. Task-switching and going back and forth to check “low-latency” content (emails, tweets, texts) has been shown to reduce your IQ by 15 points. Fatigue comes from trying to do too much. Solution: bookmark a list of sources that you can skim through on a weekly basis. Weekends might be more for books and longer journals, weekdays more for emails and tweets. I use the Pocket extension to save long articles for later, and Feedly for a personalized RSS feed. 

  3. Why: What’s the purpose of all of the consumption? There’s a difference between a college student mindlessly scrolling through their feeds and Warren Buffet reading 1,000 pages of newspapers and financial reports everyday. If more than 80% of your consumption is for ‘staying up to date,’ you are at the whims of the media and this could contribute to anxiety and a skewed world view. When you have an overarching purpose (or several purposes), you can be more laser-focused on actually using what you consume. Solution: Define your purpose! Examples of valid purposes: research for your business, ideas for marketing/consulting, discovering useful tips for your health, getting leadership/management advice, learning some new skill, fresh ideas/ data you need to bolster a conversation/discussion, lessons you can apply to life.

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