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You Are What You Eat: The Low Information Diet

information overload

A few years back I made a commitment…

I, Murray (your resident geek at TeachToScale), decided to cut back on information.

For years I wanted to stay on the cutting edge.

I scoffed at those that weren’t up-to-date or weren’t spending many restless hours digging through news articles, blog posts, forums, social feeds, and, really, any hub that had data.

I found out I was wrong…

In my mind and experience, I’ve found two things to be true with absorbing too much information:

  • Choice paralysis
  • Information overload

Although we all strive to learn and grow, it simply isn’t feasible if we plan to take action.

Allow me to explain.

Problem: Choice Paralysis

Choice paralysis is a simple enough concept: it’s when you have too many choices and so you choose nothing instead.

This happens all the time with your buying decision; you look at a wall of products and feel so overwhelmed with choices that you convince yourself to just move on.

Choice paralysis has infinitely increased due to the Internet. With a nearly endless amount of web pages and people in a constant struggle to share their content, you feel so overwhelmed that you shut down.

In the bigger picture… choice paralysis has negative effects on your goals.

You start to go off track with every new website you find, webpage you read, tweet you take in, webinar you join, and video you watch; you see others doing a skill that piques your interest. This happens on a daily basis so you end up bouncing from subject to subject.

You never really get into the meat of the skill – you only skim the surface.

In your goals for life, just skimming the surface will make you a jack of all trades, a master of none. Not only will you become frustrated as you attempt to learn skills but, mentally, you’ll feel like you’re falling behind as you see someone highly specialized get noticed.

Problem: Information Overload

Problem two is very much like the first in many ways…

When overloaded with information you begin to find patterns and even become absorbed in them.

For example, if you wanted to learn a new hobby or skill, you’d begin searching for every bit of information you can find on the web then you’d listen to people within the field, maybe watch a few videos or listen to podcasts, you may even buy information products related to what you want to learn.

At that point, however, you effectively overloaded your mind to the point that you really don’t know where to start where all you had to do, in the beginning, is take the first step and learn as you go.

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Solution: The Low Information Diet

If you know Joe then you know that he likes to ask, “what are we hiring the thing to do?”

I didn’t know it when I first came on but I had a similar thought process for some time. I thought in terms of efficiency — always wondering if the thing that I’m doing has a positive return.

I decided to do what I later came to call a “low information diet”.

To best describe this process, I’m going to share a few experiences…


The diet began with Twitter.

Twitter is fantastic for staying up-to-date with the happenings around the world but when you follow a few hundred people (maybe thousands) you simply get too overloaded with information and chatter. Not only do you lose connections with those that you want to follow but it warps your sense of information intake – you end up clicking on links you truly don’t care for just to pique your interest.

So what I did was go through my entire Twitter list and began unfollowing anyone I didn’t have a true connection with. I went based solely on memory because if I can recognize a person based on their avatar or name then I know I have contact with them. I effectively went from nearly 700 people I was following down to about 100 (give or take).

I was shocked to see how infrequent my status updates were; even still it seems like a shock but you know what? I’m not immensely distracted by Twitter anymore and the people I talk to seem to be more interesting, overall.

Feeds and Emails

I used an RSS reader for the longest time to follow and manage blog subscriptions.

But, one day I logged on and decided I needed to clean it up.

I was sitting at over 250 blogs in my subscription even though I maybe read about 30 of them – insanity!

So I went through; I removed any blog that I didn’t frequent and only left a few extra which I thoroughly enjoy their content (but don’t comment or interact that often). You know what? I no longer felt the need to obsessively check the feed anymore – this directly gave me more time each day to create content.

Since then — I don’t really follow sites directly outside of email and, as you could expect, this went through this trimming too. I unsubscribed to any email I wasn’t opening regularly. I also removed myself from just about any mailing list that only sent promotional things.

It was pleasant to have an inbox of only the good stuff.

Facebook and Other Social Platforms

Facebook is a tricky social network to walk away from but I never really had a problem not logging in. I do like to check status updates but you won’t catch me string up trouble like some people seem to do all day.

I have a set time where I check my Facebook during the day – during my ‘wind down’ period after work and before I start my projects at night – without FB in the way, I’m focused as hell.

As for everything else that has seemed to have become a “task”, I allow myself a few minutes each day to catch up on those feeds and top posts (usually during bathroom breaks lol). I try not to go back to these little things until the next day; this stops me from constantly checking updates, stats, etc. It feels really good to just get down and work.


I, like others, noticed something about the news…

…you don’t really stay informed these days. You’re entertained.

What I mean is that the constant 24/7/365 cycle of news can hook you in for hours without really knowing any details. It’s mostly speculation or worse – misinformation and hearsay. Then, a few hours later you finally find out the full details, and often it isn’t nearly as exciting, troublesome, interesting, whatever, as you were lead to believe.

What did I do to put this on a diet?

I made it a point to take a moment to look over a bit of news in the morning. And then a quick glance at the end of the night. Nothing in between when things are mostly still developing. I found that most things finally had closure and this helped me greatly reduce news consumption while still staying informed.

Actions With Real “Meat” on the Bones

There’s an extra element to the low information diet that I’d like to share…

…and that’s the concept that there are moments when you should totally be a glutton.

I’m talking about those prime opportunities to learn. To network. To grow.

These are those moments when the information you’re exposed to makes perfect sense to learn. It’s the information that, if followed through on, has a substantial impact on your opportunities and success.

It can be following a guide as you’re learning something that interests you. Or, it can be joining that business group when you’re hyped and ready to take action. It can also be showing up to something at the right time so you can make valuable connections.

That’s the beauty of cutting back on the filler.

You have more space for all the good stuff. You have free time to commit. You have the energy and focus to deep dive into the thing that’s going to provide the biggest positive impact…

Nibble at a Morsel of Information

Without all those mentally taxing ‘tasks’ (I will call them tasks because they’re more obsessive now than fun), I’m able to freely focus on my own projects without feeling overwhelmed with information, paralyzed by choice, and distracted by online media.

I never thought I’d go this way because whenever I met someone that didn’t stay current I would (literally) consider them a geezer but ya know what? Maybe they have it right. You don’t need information 24/7/365. You need action.

That’s not to say you don’t stop learning – it means you should consider taking an ‘a la carte’ method where when you take time to new skill is when you actually need to apply it to your current project.

You learn as you go. When the information is most relevant. When it’s most impactful.

So, squeegee off those mental cobwebs and free yourself from the overload.

I give you this challenge:

Go through your social profiles, feeds, daily ‘tasks’ and make the effort to cut back – realize that you don’t have to treat them like a job instead of the entertainment as they are – when you finally have the time to work on your projects, you’ll be thanking yourself for starting the low information diet. You will no longer feel paralyzed.

You will… get things done.

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