Not long ago we didn’t give too much thought about where we got our information. Primarily it was filtered through our family and friends. There were other filters in place. Our schools had a set of standards, depending on where you lived. Our newspapers and television programs had a point of view. Even the local bookstore decided which authors and magazines to stock on the shelves.
It would be a mistake to think those filters no longer exist. What has changed is we have far more control and access to “inputs” than we ever have had before, but to many, it all comes through as indiscernible noise.
Start segmenting all your inputs to regain some order. Newspapers have sections; the front page, national, international, local, entertainment, food, science, education, etc. Editors put related stories in each section. When they blur the lines and place a science story in the entertainment section, it causes confusion, miscommunication, and ire.
Watch or listen to any news program for awhile, and you recognize they have blocks designated between commercial breaks. Leading with a quirky human interest story and then burying the news of the day somewhere in the middle makes no sense and would rapidly lose the audience.
Yet, regular confusion, miscommunication, and ire are what many people allow to wash over them with un-curated social media. They accept streams polluted with a nauseating mix of adorable kitten videos adjacent to war atrocities. Birth announcements from old classmates juxtaposed with tasteless jokes, slacktivism pleas, and business proposals. How to make fat-free guacamole wins attention over images of suffering refugees, and a tweetstorm on the audacity of some establishment not carrying a size six Jimmy Choo can easily drown everything else for a few hours.
This chaos warps the brain and causes people to retreat into separate camps for reassurance. They range from those who abdicate responsibility, to those who take every hangnail as an assault against civilization. Perhaps you rest somewhere between the two?
How can you solve this?
Don’t rely on, nor wait for, a company or a government to be your gatekeeper. Take the initiative and begin compartmentalizing your social media feeds, and friends, and any other information input sources. Think like a newspaper; anticipate the sections of interest and categorize accordingly. Do you want only headlines? Which topics deserve deeper analysis? What do you need to learn more about? Are you open to views that oppose your own? Do you want your beliefs and perspective challenged, affirmed, or both? How much time will you devote to entertainment and diversions?
Begin to use the various social and other media channels, for different purposes. Don’t let one entity become your default screen.
If you are not sure how to organize the many inputs of your life, consider starting with these four sections.
- Briefing – What information will help you prepare for what’s to come?
- Tools – What information will help you better execute your tasks today?
- Analysis – What information will help you evaluate what you have accomplished and what you need to consider going forward?
- Recreation – What information will help you recharge and perhaps be open to new challenges?
Build your personal intelligence gathering system around those categories to start.
It is possible, even crucial, to allow space for happenstance and serendipity in your life, while taming the unrelenting onslaught of unfiltered pandemonium that clamors for attention. Start today. You will be more productive and less susceptible to dangerous distractions tomorrow.
Also published on Medium.