Let’s say it’s bedtime now. As you finish your day, brush your teeth and put your pajama on, think about the information you’ve exchanged today. What you’ve read. What you’ve listen to. What you’ve said.
Now ask yourself: how much of that was really important? Would I’d been able to live through this day without all that? What was the ratio of information vs. noise? And more important, how much of that exchange of data was related to what I wanted to achieve today?
As sharing becomes easier due to the social networks, the powerful gadgets and the ubiquitous access to internet, I sometimes fear we’re pushed to communicate no matter what or how often. We’re encouraged to pour information over one another. The general consensus today is that we’re better when we broadcast to others what we do, think or desire. And I wonder, is that really true? At what point does it become more a hassle than anything else?
Dealing with information overload is not easy. Lack of information is bad, but too much information can be also counter-productive. It stops you from concentrating on what you have to do, on what you’re good at, on what you can do best. It drives energy away from your core and spreads it over your context. That, in turn, makes us less productive and more stressed. When data doesn’t serve a purpose, a goal, we’re gossiping. We’re not communicating and even less collaborating.
Yet, as human beings, members of one or several groups, sharing and collaborating allow us to do greater things than we could ever do alone. True collaboration makes us better. Why? Because when you work with others, when you collaborate, you force yourself to add up to the group. In that process, you push yourself to do your best, since the group needs that from everyone to progress. Your contribution needs to be valuable and that drives you to your best limits. To be meaningful, you need to create valuable and unique content, so you put your mind to work to the best you can. That’s collaboration: sharing and creating towards a goal.
So here is the dilemma: on one side there is the so-called “wisdom of crowds” where best results are achieved when groups of diverse, independent and decentralized people work together to solve a problem (note the three conditions for this to work). On the other side, there is the mentioned “gossipformation” which happens when we pay attention to what’s being said by others (or worse, what we ourselves generate) without a true aim in mind what to use it for. Both are today exploding as we’re equipped with technologies that help sharing. What can we do here? How to get the benefits without all the troubles associated? I think some tips that can help are:
* Put yourself on an information diet: think about what’s important for you. Select the sources of information you check (or notify you) and filter them. Reduce the time you dedicate to read, browse, listen to or watch sites that publish content
* Reduce your time-span: nowadays, something that has been in your to-read list for more than a month is either something you don’t need to know or content that has become obsolete. Trash it.
* Revise your “old education habits” and put them into practice. Someone in a meeting with you deserves more attention that someone on chat. Talking to someone on the phone has greater priority than answering the last email you just received. Attending a presentation or a talk requires your full attention, even more than your followers on Twitter.
* Pick the tools that you really need to communicate and stick to them. Stop trying every single social network and app looking for content to consume. You already have too much to absorb probably.
What else? Do you have some tips or best practices to navigate the sea of information? Care to share? C’mon!