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Information Diet for More Productivity – Only Consume What You Must

How do I juggle so much is a question that I receive a lot.  And while I am involved in several initiatives at any given time, it is never as bad as it may seem or as much as others think.

Truth is, while there are certain things that I would multi-task, for the most part I only work on one task at a time.  Additionally, because I have so much that I want to accomplish while also living life, I have made a conscious effort to develop habits that allow me to work more effectively and efficiently.  One of those habits is to permanently get on an information diet.

I have taken several personality tests and most of them have always highlighted planning, strategizing and organization as some of my key strengths. I agree.  And in order to be highly effective at all of those, one must be highly productive.

This is not only important for those who work online, but for anyone. When I reflect back to my early years in University, as well as early in my career, I sought to consume any and all relevant information I could get my hands on.  My belief was that the more information I consumed, the more educated and aware I would become and the more value I would be able to add to my employer and my own life.

This is true to some extent, but only to the extent you remember to apply the right information at the right place.  In order to be effective with this approach, one must first remember everything they read, and then know when and how to apply the information.

Can you remember a time when you consumed so much information and had no immediate applicability for it? What happened when you needed that information? Did you remember it or did you have to go back and refer to it again?

This situation highlights exactly what the problem is.  Most human beings only retain 10% of all information consumed.  Reflect back to your school days. How much of what you learned in Biology, Calculus and Anthropology do you remember? How much of it can you practically apply today in what you do?

The realization that being an information hog, thinking that it would benefit me but it didn’t, was the first step for me in moving toward a complete information diet.

What Is An Information Diet?

In retail and manufacturing organizations, many companies decide to set up their supply chain so that they only produce product when it is needed instead of over producing and then warehousing the product hoping that it would sell over time. This concept is called a just in time inventory system.

Similarly, highly effective individuals can implement a similar system when it comes to information consumption. A just in time information consumption system, or an information diet, is exactly what is needed in this case.

An information diet refers to cutting out all information that is not immediately needed and applicable.  Often times we get distracted by the next best business idea, or the latest blog posts that we feel we must read immediately.

Think about what happens when we do this.  Hours go by before we realize it, and the next thing we know is that a day has passed and we made no progress toward what really matters most to us.

I used to open every newsletter that hit my inbox only to end up wasting hours and not making progress in what I was working on. I had a bookmark list of hundreds. Not once did I go back to refer to any of those. I consumed blogs like a camel consumes water. All for what?

I can understand when people did this in the pre-internet age, when information came at a premium and was only available in certain places to certain individuals. Today however, we have the entire world at our fingertips on demand and mostly for free. There is absolutely no need to consume all the irrelevant minutiae the minute it crosses our path. Trust me, it’s ok.

Instead, focus on the task you have on hand. When you hit a wall, go seek the relevant information you need, read it and then apply it until you hit the next wall. For example, if you are brand new at starting an online business and are working on getting your domain and hosting, forget reading about WordPress until you get to that stage.

Instead, learn about how to secure the best domain and hosting for your business and get it. Now you can start reading about WordPress and putting together your website or blog.  Don’t bother learning about email auto responders until after you are done building your website.

Getting on a complete information diet has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, and a key habit that has contributed to more productivity in my life.  Think about the times you’ve forgotten what you’ve read and had to refer back anyway.  Instead, start developing smarter habits that contribute to your working more effectively and efficiently.

Here are a couple other posts I’ve written on how I have been able to achieve more productivity.

What about you? What are some habits you’ve developed that have helped you become more productive?  What do you think about the information diet?

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16 Responses to “Information Diet for More Productivity – Only Consume What You Must”

  1. Totally agree with you here – a few months ago I cleaned out my email account from all the garbage newsletters I previously subscribed to that now do nothing but promote their useless crap. I also cleaned out my Google Reader account to only the blogs that really provide useful info and have set times that I devote to reading them. Blogs, YouTube videos, Yahoo News articles, etc. are like black holes for productivity. You read one post, article, video, etc. and then you get distracted and click on another link, consume content, click link, content, link, content, etc.

    Also, the application “RescueTime” helps me keep track of what things I spend the most time on while online.


  2. Theodore.N says:

    Hi Sunil
    I’m just an example of all you said here you know. I have about 12 email addresses and i recieve up 200 emails on daily basis from different bloggers.
    Sometimes, while writing for my blog, i wount know when i start reading reading those scrap that i will even forget what i was writing. But i think the best thing for me now is opt out of those lists and focus on the valuable ones.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    I wrote about you and other top bloggers on my blog.

    • Sunil says:

      wow that’s a ton! stay tuned to a handful of trusted resources and cut the rest of the fat. thanks for the note, I will head over and check it out

  3. Vedran says:

    Hey buddy,

    nice read! While I was going through your text you said you took some personality tests and every one of them showed you what you known your strengths are: planning, strategizing and organization…

    My first question is, do you have some example of tests you took online and second do you think people that are not strong in those “skills” can be successful?


    • Sunil says:

      sure Vedran, StrengthFinder is a solid one. Myers Briggs is another popular one used by large corporates when they hire. I believe the key is to identify your strengths and then play to them. in other words, focus on a model that leverages those strengths. for example, if speaking/teaching/explaining is a strength but writing is not all that strong, one might focus on an avenue like video or audio instead of blogging. make sense?

      • Vedran says:

        Yep, it makes sense, but… 🙂
        My example or problem is that I was all around the skill set soup. I was programmer, teacher, salesmen and in every “calling” I have seen the lack of the strengths you said you possess.

        Just recently I realized my strengths are totally in other areas 🙂
        I was mislead by my own choices and that’s why I asked if you think that in the nutshell everyone should possess at least some basic strengths you mention. I suck at them (not opinion, based on facts) and so I have a feeling my career and health were suffering because of that. Today just career 🙂

        Just to point out the problem I’m INFP by Myers Briggs and as stated there, idealist with developed intuition and compassion for the world and person “in front of me”. Hard logic is strange and unnatural to me but I find this time, where we live, so hard without some planning, organizing or strategizing, or am I wrong?

        • Sunil says:

          let me make one more recommendation before we further dissect this? have a read at “unique ability”. let’s talk after you go through it

  4. This is a very great information, Sunil. On the other hand, It is like saying, “no man can serve two masters”. Thank you for this great article.

    -Dean Collins

  5. Anish says:

    Hi Sunil,

    Nice article and a great blog. I came here thru your comment on Pat’s blog. Reading more and more but doing little. Lagging behind on the action part. I would start working on it. Let’s see how it goes.


  6. BarryCrow says:

    Thank you for sharing this information diet. I got curious about the title and I enjoyed reading the whole article. I agree with everything you said.

  7. Well-written post with great information. Lesson learned: Learn one lesson at a time and put it in action before taking the next step. Things may look complicated when you try to learn everything in one sitting and you will give up without even getting the first step done. Thanks for sharing!

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