How to Beat Information Overload

We’re living in a world of information overload.

Over 4 million blog posts are published every day. There are more than 800,000 podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes available. Countless emails land in our inbox daily with ‘COVID-19’ or ‘webinar’ somewhere in the subject line.

A 12-year-old with an internet connection today has more access to information that Bill Clinton had during his term in the White House.

But too much of anything is simply too much, and trying to keep up with all of this information can be exhausting.

But here’s the thing.

We shouldn’t be trying to keep up at all.

Instead of keeping up, we should leverage information to level up.

Finding the Signal in the Noise

Here’s how you can cut through the noise and find the proverbial signal.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

What are your goals?

Is it short-term marketing success?

Is it long-term financial success?

Is it optimal health, or an optimal romantic relationship?

Whatever steps you’re taking, you need to have a directional lighthouse you’re moving towards to help you chart your course.

Step 2: Identify Believable People

If it’s financial success, shortlist a number of people that have attained the kind of wealth that you too are aspiring to.

Did they come from similar beginnings as yours?

Was their success based on the quality of their decisions or did they benefit from chance shocks to the global economic, social or political system, or just plain luck that they’ve been milking ever since? An inheritance, or maybe a lucky investment early on in life?

If so, then they may not be the most believable people, but rather riding the coat-tails of circumstance.

Seek out people whose circumstances, as much as it is possible, best align with yours when they were in your position.

If you don’t have access to said believable people, seek out their recommendations through blog posts or podcast episodes they’ve been featured in.

Sure, you could just review book recommendations on Amazon, but you don’t know anything about the people providing these recommendations. They might be flush with cash, or on the same journey as you, so we really don’t know if they are in a position to judge whether or not the advice provided is credible, actionable or valuable. This is why seeking out believable people is key.

You want to look for believable people whose outcomes are a byproduct of decisions they made, and continue to make.

Step 3: What Do They All Recommend?

A quick search for ‘Warren Buffet’s favourite finance books’ reveals this article, and Benjamin Graham’s classic The Intelligent Investor, a book Buffet picked up when was just 19.

I’d repeat this for a handful of people whose opinions are believable and credible in this space, and identify the book or content that everybody seems to be on the same page about.

It turns out that Tim Ferriss and Bill Gates are also huge fans of Graham’s book.

Applying the same thinking leads me to conclude the following:

Philosophy book: Most great thinkers recommend Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Tech business model newsletter: Many tech luminaries are subscribed to Ben Thompson’s Stratechery.

Decision-making podcast: Many high-stakes decision makers listen to Shane Parrish’s The Knowledge Project.

Step 4: Consume Content Recommended by All

If it becomes apparent that the book or material doesn’t apply to your unique circumstances, know when to fold em and move on to other material.

If it’s a book, try the ‘100 minus your age’ rule. If I’m 36, then that’s 64 pages I should read before determining whether or not it’s worth my reading the rest of the book. If by this point, I’m not getting any value…time to fold.

Step 5: Extract, Test, Apply, Discard

Just because it worked for someone else, it doesn’t mean that it’ll work for you. Everybody’s circumstances are different, and a book that was written in the 1940s may no longer be relevant today.

As such, you’ll want to extract key insights, find ways to test them in your own life, determine whether or not they’re worth doubling down on or discarding.

The faster you do this the faster you can hone in on practices that are beneficial to you, and the faster you can reach your goals.