The amount of information on the internet is staggering. That in itself is not news, excuse the pun, but with the turnover of the top stories occurring every hour or so it can be difficult to keep up. The digital landscape demands that a continuous stream of content that is published and shared 24 hours a day.
What’s the result? If you’re someone who likes to be informed or is just naturally inquisitive, it’s easy to suffer from information overload.
Chew 50 times
Mike Sturm posits that “as the amount of electronic content increases the quality of said content decreases.” I’m not entirely convinced, but I can see the correlation between lots of content and fast food: you need to be selective regarding what you ingest.
When I was a kid my mum would drive home the importance of chewing every bite of food 50 times. Similarly, an effective way to sift through all of that online content is to take small bites of anything you think you might want to read. This is the equivalent of taking a small bite of something in order to try it. Scan the entire piece for headings.
Try to figure out what the piece is trying to say, and look for sentences that convey interesting or useful information.
Separate the sizzle from the steak
The benefits of reading slower and taking time to digest the information at hand is important for your overall mental diet. Nielsen Norman Group underscores this fact when it says, “Just like computers, human brains have a limited amount of processing power.
When the amount of information coming in exceeds our ability to handle it, our performance suffers.
We may take longer to understand information, miss important details, or even get overwhelmed and abandon the task.”
Read, scan, and save
Just like overeating, you can read and even learn too much as well. Before allowing yourself to explode like that poor guy tempted by a thin mint in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, you can learn to pace yourself when absorbing all that new information. Experts recommend the benefits of scanning to pull out the big headlines and then consider adding to your favorites for later. And like anyone on a diet, you must limit yourself to a set info-meal. Say, three or four stories and then move on to your real job or whatever.
What this does, according to the essay I mentioned earlier, is help you to better process information so that it becomes embedded in your body of knowledge. When it is accessible, it is useful, and thus prevents you from consuming content junk or things that won’t end up enriching your knowledge base.