Image by Philipp K.

 

Information can be an incredibly useful thing. Thanks to the media saturated world we currently live in, we can basically dig up information on anything we desire. A LOT of information. For FREE.

But with this comes the danger of information overload – a problem that will  become bigger and bigger over time, as more and more information is generated at a mind-boggling rate.

So the question is – are you counting your information calories?

When consuming information becomes bad for you

Just like consuming food, we need to be weary of what information we are consuming. There are two possible issues with information consumption:

  • consuming the wrong information
  • consuming too much information

Consuming the wrong information

By “consuming the wrong information”, I mean consuming information that isn’t actually useful to you. News is the most obvious example. If you’re not careful, social media can sometimes fall into this category too.

With this sort of information, you’re basically consuming “empty calories”. You may feel full afterward, but consuming it does nothing for you. It doesn’t make you smarter, nor does it help you accomplish anything.

In fact, the more you consume of this, the worse you will feel. Your mind will fill up with garbage, and you’ll have less time to do what you need to do. So the less you consume of this sort of information, the better.

Consuming too much information

I recently noticed that I spend far too much time consuming information. I’m not talking about “wrong information” necessarily. I’m talking about helpful, educational information that develops me in some way.

Now I realise that consuming such information isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly better than consuming the wrong information!

But there are two major issues with consuming too much information, regardless of whether it’s good or bad:

1) Too much too soon

Consuming too much too soon results in less information being retained.

Have you ever tried filling up a table spoon directly from the tap? What happens when you put the tap on full blast? Yep, no water stays in the spoon.

But change the tap to a trickle, and the spoon fills up and STAYS FULL.

This is like information consumption. If you consume information at a steady pace, you will retain far more than if you try and gorge yourself on a fountain of info.

The best way to limit consumption to a steady trickle is to consume only information that is directly necessary for the next step of whatever you’re doing.

So if you’re consuming information ten steps in advance of when you’ll actually be needing it, it’s too early. Chances are that you will forget what you learned by the time you need it, which means you’ll probably end up re-reading it again.

Take, for example, writing a screenplay. Why bother reading information about how to get an agent if you haven’t even written a first draft yet?

There are better uses for your time than that.

2) Consuming vs creating

If you do any sort of creative work (and, arguably, most people do in one way or another), consuming too much information starts to be a problem when it causes you to create too little.

When you’re consuming MORE than you’re creating, you have a problem that needs to be fixed URGENTLY. You don’t want that kind of imbalance in your consumption vs creation ratio. It stifles creativity, and gives you less time to accomplish your creative goals.

So ideally, you should be CREATING more than you’re consuming. After all, ANYONE can consume, but not everyone can create.

Which would YOU rather be doing?