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Go on a Low-Info Diet

The 4-Hour WorkweekImage via Wikipedia

Tim Ferriss, author of the bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek, suggests that -- like those in the fast-growing subculture he calls the New Rich -- we need to learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are "irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable."

And he says that most information we are bombarded with daily comes from these three categories. Time-consuming, negative and irrelevant to what we're working on now, and outside our scope of influence.

Think about that. Herbert Simon, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, said "...a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention..." Can you argue with that? More is not always better. The challenge is discerning what deserves your precious attention.

A while back someone told me about a survival skill they'd adopted called "shucking." I've adopted it and love it. It's a way to handle the wave upon wave of fast-breaking, headline-making, attention-consuming information. Shucking is a two-part skill. The first is throwing away what you don't need; the second, deflecting stuff before it hits you.

  • Grab that pile of six-month-old business journals. Shuck it. Might there be some useful articles in the stack? Maybe. But you'll get new ones this month and next. And the longer those old ones sit there, the more you worry about reading them. Those anxious thoughts junk up your mind.
  • Compress your Internet files. That's shucking.
  • Shovel out your office. Shuck what you aren't using now and won't need in the very near future.
  • Shuck time-wasting phone calls and association memberships that you've outgrown.

Ferriss suggests developing the habit of asking yourself this question. "Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important?" And if you answer "no" to either "immediate" or "important," he suggests that you don't consume it. Shuck it. It's useless if it's not applied to something important OR if you are going to forget it before you have a chance to apply it. (Like all those great ideas in that pile of journals.)

Since reading The 4-Hour Work Week, I've consciously avoided saving articles, researching sites and looking for books that might be helpful for future clients or projects. My files, my office, my mind is less cluttered. And when I need certain information, it's always there. Practice shucking. That low-info diet will help you lose what you don't need anyway.

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