A Simple Model to Deal with Information Overload

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Like most, every day I check my email, my multiple social channels, the news and sometimes even new viral videos to entertain me. Then I reached a point in my life, where I began to feel depressed, tired and sick from information overload.

In my search for help on the internet, I found a simple tool that helped me decide which kind of information I needed to filter out from my life. [1]

The model below categorizes information in four quadrants based on sentiment and usefulness. The shaded area represents the amount and type of information the author allows in his life.

Credit: Miguel Hernandez

Credit: Miguel Hernandez

The part that was hard for me to digest is the idea of ignoring the second quadrant―the negative news I can't do anything about.

It was not until I read an essay [2] by German author Rolf Dobelli that I started to gain a new perspective around the topic. As he explains, if the world were twice as big, there would be more news we wouldn't learn about. In theory, whether we avoid some news or not, we're already missing some news anyways.

Then passively consuming the news does nothing to improve the world. Instead they makes us vulnerable to letting shallow breaking news shape our views.

Most social and global issues are so complex that require a deeper investigation to understand them. So one can either have a half-informed opinion about everything or fully understand some issues—and be a more constructive member of society.

To recap, whether we choose to filter the news or not, there will always be news that we miss. In the same way, even we decide to avoid the news entirely, there will always be big news that we'll learn about anyways through word of mouth.

We live in a world of unlimited information, but that doesn't mean that we should consume more and more of it. The model above (see graphic) offers a great solution to overcome information overload and regain new time, energy, and mental space in our lives.

References

  1. How to deal with information overload, Miguel Hernandez of Grumo Media
  2. Avoid News Towards a Healthy News Diet by Rolf Dobelli, 2012