In 2011 Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986—the equivalent of 175 newspapers.
Where once an educated person might have assumed she was at least conversant with the relevant knowledge on a particular field of study, the explosion of information has rendered that assumption laughable.
General Stanley McChrystal (and others),Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Surprise, surprise – we are in the midst of full-bore information overload. You are; I am; we all are.
And, plenty of the information we take in is important information. Information we need to know.
And, alas, much of the information crossing our Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/web site eyeball path is not worth investing time in knowing.
But, we do invest our time in such anyway.
We all knew that the amount of information we take in has greatly increased, but when you read the statistic quoted above by General McChrystal – “five times as much information every day as they did in 1986” – and, that statistic is back from 2011 (a half-decade ago!) — then I’ve got a hunch we are drowning in, being covered up by, buried under… too much information.
In Deep Work, Cal Newport reminded us that our real challenge and task is to decide in advance what we do with our intellectual attention. And then, stick to that advanced decision making. Set a timer; focus and read and pay attention to the intellectual content at hand. That’s the plan to combat this onslaught.
One of the reasons that I think people appreciate the First Friday Book Synopsis is that it is a focused time. Every person has a handout, and seemingly everyone follows along with the handout.. Their attention seems pretty focused for those 35 minutes or so once a month as Karl Krayer and I deliver our two business book synopses each month.
But I’ve seen quite the contrast. I’ve seen people “watching” presentations, by glancing up at a few slides, and then putting their eyeballs, and a major portion of their focus, on their SmartPhones while a presenter speaks on.
Divided attention is divided attention – and few lessons are fully taken in that way.
I don’t know how you handle your information overload. I know that I don’t always win in my fight in this battle. But, this much I know – I’ve got to find a way to choose in advance some key intellectual content, and then give my undivided attention until I finish drinking in that content (in my case, usually reading books).
In other words, if it is an information overload era, then I’ve got to become my own master regarding what information I take in, and when, and how.
OK – blog post finished. Now it’s time to read. I’ll set my timer, and then after that focused time, after an immersion in the content of a good book, I’ll get back to checking my email, and make a call or two, and maybe even watch a cat video…