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Attention!  For ourselves and our audiences, attention is a finite resource.  To demand that someone “pay attention” is exactly that, a transaction. Something must be sacrificed in order to obtain something else. With infinite demands for our attention, how do we limit ourselves from becoming “infobese”?  More importantly, how do we control the glut so as remain alert, active, and advocating?


note: by using this buzzword, we are in no way underestimating the real and complex health condition of obesity.  At RightMind, both staffers and their family members have dealt with this issue and are sympathetic to its multi-faceted nature.

As early as the 1960’s, this idea of information overload was discussed. Before “www” entered our lives. American economist, Herbert Simon, known for his interdisciplinary study in such fields as cognitive science and management stated:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.  Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

It all starts with filters…

A RightMind family member is notorious for assessing some individuals as “having an open mind with no filter.”  While that may at first glance seem judgmental, there is some veracity to the statement. Think about the items we ingest or purchase.  When we’re headed to the gym, more than likely we pass on a greasy fast food option. If we’re concerned about unjust labor laws in third world countries, we may pass on a particular clothing brand or coffee known to source from that location.  And, if one is opposed to certain political stances, one may avoid news outlets that have that bias. Why do we make these choices to “opt out”? Because we have personal standards. Those standards are in effect “filters”. We’re controlling what enters our bodies and minds for our physical, ethical, and mental health.  So, why not with the information we consume?

Perhaps from grade school we’re indoctrinated with the thought of “did you check all your sources?”  This training is valid in the sense of if we opt for the first choice without checking out other options, we may be limiting ourselves and/or choosing poorly.  But, there is a huge difference between the 3 sets of encyclopedias and 6 books on giraffes in the elementary school library versus the 133 MILLION results from a Google search for the same topic.  Realism tells us that at some point, we’re going to have to limit how much information we absorb. So what filters can we place so as to get what we need and eliminate that which will make us infobese?

The process is similar to that which we use to establish the physical, ethical, and mental choices mentioned earlier.  Step 1: Know what your business stands for and what is beneficial for your clients. Successful businesses understand their niche and their ideal client. If they are approached by a prospect that isn’t a fit, they turn that business down or refer it to a partner. The same filtering mechanism is true when faced with information. If the information doesn’t directly pertain to your business, your niche, or your clients, do you really want to take it in? Likely not. Now, this is not a hard and fast rule as there can be cases when you want to expand your knowledge to provide extra value or explore an additional niche, but the concept warrants consideration. If it takes your eye off of the proverbial “ball,” it can result in distraction and lost resources.

The secret to processing information is narrowing your  field of information to that which is relevant to your life…I believe it is a myth that the more choices you have, the more appropriate actions you can take and the more  freedom you will enjoy. Rather, more choices seem to produce more anxiety.

Richard S. Wurman

Creator of TED Conferences

Secondly, if the information is relevant, do we have the time to process it? Assimilation of more information will, of necessity, delay the decision making. Getting back to the thought of the attention transaction, we have to consider what are sacrificing in the interest of garnering more information?  Have we lost financial resources? Opportunities? Momentum? That priceless commodity of time?

Filter out the unnecessary and advocacy will flourish

Returning to our obesity analogy, physical obesity side effects can include joint pain, fatigue, and inability to cope with sudden physical activity.  If we compare those side effects to infobesity, we can easily see the danger to our business activity. To stay competitive, we have to be resilient, active, and responsive. And, if we’re interested in growth, we should be focused on advocacy. Advocacy, in its most basic form, is actively supporting or arguing in favor of something. By nature, advocacy requires a certain amount of organic enthusiasm or energy.  If one is laden down with excess information, that enthusiasm will have a hard time kick-starting. Therefore, install those filters according to what you truly value. Be choosy about what you ingest, and create room for excitement and advocacy to flourish.  

To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distractions.

Duane Elgin

Media activist & author




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