Today’s Episode is sponsored by Petra Kolb
This is the 2nd of several new episodes I am releasing in response to the ever changing COVID 19 situation. I’d been working on what they call evergreen content for season 4, that is content that is more general and can be applied to our day to day life and work but I have temporarily shelved six of those episodes in favour of creating a six new episodes which are responding to matters more immediate.
In the last episode I dealt with anxiety and how it can take control and shut you down if you are not careful. Do you want to get out the other end of this crisis and realise that all you did was panic about an unknown future the whole time? Or do you want to take back control and take advantage of this opportunity to get things done? If that’s you then please go back and check it out.
Today I am looking at something which I have been struggling with for far longer than this recent crisis, but one which is being highlighted right now in our current situation.
Daniel Levitin the American neuroscientist said We really are living in an age of information overload. Google estimates that there are 300 exabytes (300 followed by 18 zeros) of human-made information in the world today. Only four years ago there were just 30 exabytes. We've created more information in the past few years than in all of human history before us. Unquote
I’m sure we’ve all been struggling recently to understand exactly what the hell is going on with Covid19 but it’s not through a lack of information about it. In fact information is pouring into us at an outrageous rate and the more and more we take in the more and more nonsensical it can all sound. I nearly called this episode Information Pollution because of this but I chickened out at the last moment.
Anyway this isn’t a situation unique to our current predicament, and every day (regular day that is) I struggle with this problem. I get emails that can be pertinent and need my attention, I get phone calls, texts, and other messages relating to work and day to day life that can’t be ignored. I chat with friends and colleagues and I get sent scripts with fight scenes that I have to read and then updates and rewrites to those scripts that I have to consider. I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts and I hear about amazing productivity solutions that grab my attention and as I promote the show on social media I get responses and private messages and I get invited to things like app trials and group discussions and as I reply to messages wherever they come from, in an effort to close that communication, inevitably I get responses which require even more of my time and effort and it’s all really far too much.
Yesterday I got introduced by someone on Twitter to another tweep who has a productivity app for social media. Great I thought, sounds interesting – but I still had to politely refuse to look into it as I absolutely don’t have the time to look at more productivity apps when already I have more productivity solutions than I know what to do with. Instead I have to put it in pocket or just remind myself to look at it later. I had to say no also because I have actual work to do that just can’t be streamlined. These episode don’t right themselves and no amount of productivity apps can write them for me. You see whilst I’m communicating in a polite manner (which I always try to do) while I’m replying to people and interacting and closing the doors to problems and situations I am not actually doing any of my own work.
Although much of what I’ve described there is important and deserves some attention, I am still only one man, with only so much time in a day and I have to stay on top of what is important. Incidentally if you have not heard my episode on protecting your mental energy (episode 18) you need to go back and give it a listen. It talks about the fact that it’s not really time we don’t have when we turn something down or say no to an opportunity, it’s because we feel stressed about something else and we don’t have the mental energy, or brain power to deal with it. Consider that point next time you catch yourself saying I don’t have time to someone.
One of my favourite tweeters is Isaiah Hankel who wrote the book, THE SCIENCE OF INTELLIGENT ACHIEVEMENT and he says that “Mental energy is the world’s hottest commodity. People are going to try to steal it, drain it, and suck it up every second you’re awake. Yet very few of us protect it. Few of us know how.”
Please get that book or go back to episode 18 to find out more about this concept.
So my situation was in near overload before COVID19 started knocking on my door with a massive sh*tstorm of mixed information. Information on which the experts only now seem to be actually agreeing on but information which is twisted and misrepresented by what I regard as a very dangerous media who have been feeding on our fears and worries here in the UK and elsewhere like vultures. This has been further confused by the swarm of ill-informed public figures and self-nominated know-it-alls who have been spewing their unqualified opinions onto social media. I watched a video the other day that was supposed to be from the Singapore government but as it went on I started thinking, hang on a minute, this doesn’t add up. It was from some media company that had compiled a lot of random facts about the virus and smudged them all together into a slick video which if it really was from the Singapore government would have had a government logo on it somewhere – it didn’t.
The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history. George Orwell Unquote
So that’s enough of a rant about the white noise of information overload, but how do we overcome it? Well it’s not rocket science but it will take a bit of effort on your part.
The answer is simply this - filters. We need assess and filter through information to get to the stuff that matters. Then we need to shut out or close down or delete the irrelevant and the unhelpful in favour of a more streamlined and accurate approach. I covered this in detail in my mini season last year on THE LAW OF SUCCESS IN 16 LESSONS. In it Napoleon Hill talks about how, if we are to be successful in our life and work, we must separate facts from mere information. This is what he called Accurate Thought, and here are a few of Hill’s thoughts on ACCURATE THINKING from that book.
He warns us to accept that loose unsound opinions can be mistaken for accurate thinking but that most opinions are without value because they are based on bias, prejudice, intolerance, guesswork, hearsay evidence and out-and-out ignorance.
He also talks about not believing what one reads in the papers and I often use the phrase don’t believe everything you read on the internet to highlight the same point.
“The ACCURATE THINKER” Hill Says “ will not accept as such all that he sees and hears for the reason that it constitutes the rocks and reefs on which so many people flounder and go down to defeat in a bottomless ocean of false conclusions.”
It’s a little archaic that sentence, but he’s saying that if we base our conclusions on a false premise derived from a false piece of information then we are going to fail. This show talks about success and you will never succeed if you go down that road.
Hill who trained as a lawyer talks of A principle called “the law of evidence” and “the object of this law is to get at the facts. Any judge can proceed with justice to all concerned, if they have the facts upon which to base their judgment, but they may play havoc with innocent people if they circumvent the law of evidence and reach a conclusion or judgment that is based upon hearsay information.”
If you want to know more about that then please go back and listen to that miniseries on The Law Of Success. Episodes 40 -45 of this show. It took me an age but it’s a very valuable series.
Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Karol Krol Unquote
One other thing I’d like to add here is that when you try to consume more and more information each day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts you can take in too much information without having a moment to pause and consider it.
When I was coaching fencing we were taught that new information needs a period of reflection to be processed by the human brain and in fencing terms as it’s a physical thing, by the body as well, before we can take in more. By unremittingly jamming our brains full of new, even high quality information, but not giving ourselves time to reflect upon it, we are in effect, wasting our time. We need to slow down to catch up if you get my meaning.
A regular issue I have which causes a bit of an overload is that when I listen to a podcast or sometimes several podcasts as I drive or as I walk my dog Angus is that I get interested in the topic but I don’t have the ability, in that moment, to go and look up the show notes which have links and references to the topic. As a result, although I take in information from the podcast, I forget some of the details.
As you get further into this kinda information addiction you sooner or later convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for even more new information. This is sometimes referred to as FOMO, which I’ll go into in a later episode on Technology addiction. FOMO is an anagram for FEAR OF MISSING OUT. All of this means that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time to process it.
The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.
you don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, to do your work or enjoy your passion. You must find the self-control to stop yourself constantly seeking that new information. You must fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible.
There’s no such thing as information overload. It’s filter failure. Social and economic effects teacher Clay Shirky Unquote
Now if you think you recognise any or all of these things in yourself then you need to take control of the quality of information that you are receiving. Here are a few suggestions on how you can do that.
I rattle on about this all the time as it’s a staple of a productive life and it just can’t be ignored, but know your goals. If you don’t know where you are going you are never going to get there and in turn IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT YOU CAN’T BE SELECTIVE IN THE INFORMATION YOU SEEK. I’ve done countless episodes on this topic but it’s essential for productivity that you know where you are heading. Otherwise you just wander aimlessly through life. Change your unspecific hopes and dreams, into actionable, precise goals and note that you are what is it 42% more likely to achieve them if you write them down. Don’t do what many do and half right them down either. Be specific. Use the SMART anagram. Make your goals SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALSTIC AND TIME SENSITIVE. If you are being unspecific or wooly in your goals you will fail to reach them. It’s as simple as that.
My next suggestion is that you work out where your data is coming from and curate it. Do a written assessment of it if you need to. I listed earlier where mine comes from. Yours may be different. If you know where it’s coming from you can do something about it and put some controls in place.
Following this, filter the information that is coming in. For example – I decided to only accept data regarding the coronavirus from verified official channels. In my case that was the NHS here in the UK, or from people online who had actually contracted and gone through the process of recovery from the virus. I ignore the rest, and if I catch myself looking I switch off. Fear Of Missing Out makes me sometimes wander but I use my higher level thinking head, and I put a stop to it. Filtering the information massively limits the amount of data that you are receiving in the first place. Knowing your goals will help you do this when it comes to other matters. Another example of filtering might be in your email. Most email boxes can be set up these days to automatically filter out promotions and social media from everyday emails. Your spam filter probably cuts out a load of crap you don’t even know about.
As you become more selective in what you allow through your filters and you choose what you are going to follow and read based on your clearly set goals you can ignore the rest.
I recently decided to stop listening to certain filmmaking podcasts because for the time being I am not making films. Instead I have been listening to a couple of marketing shows which are more in alignment with my current goals which largely revolve around how I can build the audience for this show.
Also rather than blindly following every single YouTube account out there I only dip into a select few. Of course, the trouble with YouTube is that it’s always offering me cat and storage locker videos which pull me in. As I said though, I’ll deal with tech addiction in a later show but in short if you have that problem, add a website blocking feature to your browser. I use the blocksite extension to chrome which stops me going onto YouTube at all if I activate it as it just leads to endless unhelpful procrastination for me if I’m not careful.
The next thing you need to do, and I also talked about it in the last episode, is to catch yourself if you are forever wallowing in the newsThis will only lead to the anxiety and stress. Please listen to my episode on Outrage Porn, which is about how we are manipulated by the media to find out more. That’s episode 49. I’ve noted recently how we get a daily death toll, and inevitably the article says something like DEATH TOLL RISES! WIDESPREAD PANIC! I always think, well of course it rises - it’s hardly going to go down hen all you do is just add the numbers on to yesterday’s figure.
My next suggestion is that you delete and remove the apps that you don’t need from your phone or the groups you don’t need to be part of on Facebook or the social media accounts on which you waste the most time. I’ve been invited onto a few Facebook groups and to trial a few apps recently which I have done, but I honestly don’t have the time to deal with them or properly interact with the people on them. I think politeness has kept me using them for a while but I am now at the stage where I really must start deleting. You should also ensure that you are unsubscribed from receiving notifications from social media, and if you’ve not done it recently, go through your emails and unsubscribe from as many of them as you can. Get past your FEAR OF MISSING OUT and just go for it. If you know your goals and are really committed to them, you will know which ones matter and which do not.
Those that follow me on social media will know that I regularly come off social networking for a month at a time. I’ve done that 3 times in the last two years and that can really boost your productivity and cut back on that information overload. I kept the accounts live but I deleted the apps from my phone and blocked them on my pc. I can’t understate how incredible it is to not have the yoke of social media about your neck for a few weeks. Here’s the other thing too. It makes virtually no difference to your follower numbers. They are pretty much the same when you come back. Consider a social media break of 30 days if you have severe information overload.
Another thing you can do to stop the flow of information pollution heading in your direction is to start saying No. It’s my go to productivity answer to get more done and simplify my life. I simply can’t get on top of my own stuff if I’m constantly getting pulled into other peoples. Make NO your default answer unless what you are talking about is in alignment with your goals or you genuinely want to do it.
The final suggestion that I have on my list is simple. Turn it off. If you are constantly being distracted by your phone and addicted to the information overload that;s coming through it for example, then TURN IT OFF. I know this concept is possibly freaking you out but you know you can do it if you really try. For those of you having difficulty in processing this idea, then try out the lesser option and use the DO NOT DISTURB function. This will stop the phone going off while you work on tasks that require your attention. Leaving the phone in another room and on silent might be one worth considering too. This will stop you forever reaching for it and checking whatever social media thing you fear you are missing out on.
Steve Jobs said That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. Unquote
If the information overload you are feeling relates to tasks which are pertinent and important you have two options. Deal with it now or deal with it later.
Dealing with things as they come in is the solution to the build-up of problems you will have to deal with later so I recommend that you use the 2 minute rule to combat this. That is IF A TASK TAKES 2 MINUTES OR LESS JUST DO IT NOW, and if it can’t be dealt with immediately, use THE ONE TOUCH RULE if it’s a little more involved. The one touch rule says THAT YOU MUST COMPLETE THE TASK IN A SINGLE SITTING WITHOUT DISTRACTION. It forces you to put stuff off but also to properly deal with them. Another options you have is to pass it on to someone else to deal with. You can hear all about these rules and a couple more in episode 9, FOUR GREAT HACKS TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION.
If you’ve been having problems with all of this I suggest you take some of the steps I have talked about here to control the way you are receiving information. Use this as a call to action if you may. It will pull you out of the doldrums of inactivity and give you the freedom to get things done again.
Use these steps to filter through this era of INFORMATION POLLUTION and accept the invitation to join your own life again.
I hope you’ve found todays show helpful in the current situation or in life in general.
I just want to say once again before I wrap up that if this show is helping you in some way then please pass it on to someone else. Getting new subscribers is very tough as there’s over 700,000 podcasts in the world today. If you can promote the show in any way then I would be eternally grateful. I’ve not had anyone do it yet, but if you do enjoy the show and it’s helping you then please take a screen grab as you listen to the show on your app and put it up on social media with a link to where folk can listen. If you do that I’ll give you a shoutout on a future show.
Let me end today with some more words from Napoleon Hill “Accurate thought involves two fundamentals.” He says, “First, you must separate facts from mere information. Second, you must separate facts into two classes -the important and the unimportant. Only by doing so can you think clearly and accurately
Now, take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!
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