Simple hack for information overload

Cicero, the great Roman orator.

Everyone is under pressure these days to improve and reinvent themselves constantly. Read industry news, attend events, run workshops. Network. Watch TED talks to maximize your toilet productivity. Listen to podcasts on 2x speed to double your rate of learning. Be more innovative, more creative, more focused, more everything. More of more is more! But in overloading on the input of all of this content, are we actually digesting more..? You probably know the answer.

Are we really being productive just by doing more, even if there is no aim or purpose in our actions? Tim Ferriss would say that true productivity is focusing on actions that make all other actions easy or entirely unnecessary. Why can’t we just do that, then?

Sprinkle some WhatsApp on top

Our brains are bombarded each minute with notifications from social media, work emails and news apps. Sprinkle some Whatsapp on top! Our train of thought is being constantly interrupted. Just when your brain’s synapses are about to synthesize a new idea by connecting seemingly unconnected streams of information, your phone buzzes. Someone you don’t know just liked your share of that comment made by someone else you don’t know. Was it worth it?

That means our brains have very little down time to synthesize all this data into coherent, new and applicable knowledge. Memory consolidation is how the brain combines thoughts together to form stable memories. Memories are your knowledge. Think about it. If you can’t remember it, what use is an idea? You can only pursue new concepts, or apply new techniques if you remember them in the first place!

No wonder people are getting into mindfulness, just to give them selves 10 minutes a day to shut off the noise. But, there’s another solution, and it doesn’t involve ritual humming. Promise.

Preach the good word

I was recently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the all-time classic business books, which had a great little nugget on how readers of the book should be using the book itself. It was simply to tell someone about every new thing you found interesting no later than 48 hours after reading about it. That’s it. Job done.

Most people do this intuitively, but very selectively. Typically when they’re highly confident the listener will be receptive to the message. We sink our cognitive standards to the lowest common denominator, based on our need for social acceptance. Weak sauce. We all have diverse interests, whether personal of professional. We may be more inclined to discuss relevant professional topics casually, while holding on to ideas which are outside the accepted norm for meaningless office chatter. And then forgetting them! That’s on you, buddy!

Go forth and make disciples

The beauty of this approach is that once you realize you need to tell someone about what you just read or heard, you are more motivated to structure that stream of thought in your brain. Cause you’ll have to explain it to someone!

Not surprisingly, this is also why I enjoy writing. It makes me really think through an idea. You can’t just spurt it out. Well, maybe on Twitter or Facebook you can.

Let’s try something fun. Stop reading now, and go talk to someone immediately about what you just read. Yes your spouse. Peter from accounting works. Or the random guy next to you in the coffee shop. Yeah that guy. Learn about learning by teaching, by teaching what you learned. Uhh. See you later!

Did you try it? Did you notice how it helped? Too busy catching up on Twitter? Worried about how you look in a Toga? Create a conversation and comment below!

Thinks about the future a lot. Founder of two startups. Lives in Singapore.

Thinks about the future a lot. Founder of two startups. Lives in Singapore.