Sarah is a graphic designer. She loves her job, enjoys the intellectual stretch, and finds flexing her creative muscles invigorating time and again. What she on the other hand hates is being addicted to information consumption.
She doesn’t hate the curiosity and finds acquiring knowledge to be just as interesting as anything else, but it is not that segment of information consumption which she despises. What bothers her most is going through loads of information day after day and never connecting the dots in terms of application. This she finds frustrating.
However, there is really no Sarah, and this might as well be your life story. Regardless your field of interest, passion, career… We all tend to plug ourselves into the process of acquiring as much information as we can. How we use it is another story entirely.
What causes us to search for more information?
This question has indeed been discussed to the lengths of exhaustion. Some speculate procrastination; others contribute this to curiosity and our inherent nature, ambition and hunger for more, enjoying the intellectual stretch and so on.
My contention is that it’s in fact a mixture of all the things above, and on individual basis some tend to dominate more than others. But regardless of the causation, the solution can still be searched within how we approach information consumption.
Let me ask you something;
Do you honestly know how many things there are in your bookmark folder?
On your Evernote?
You see, we go through our day trying to collect as much as we can, filling our hands to the point where it’s spilling away, but digesting and processing only a fracture. We leave things behind for a review once we get back to them, but getting back seems the hardest part, and both practice and statistic show that it rarely ever happens.
What we are in fact missing ?
Lots of it if you think about it; The more we read, the more we watch, the more we listen to something, the more it piles up and the more it spills over.
Ideas we find promising, things that can be applied into our lifestyle, career, business, skill improvement… These all fade away since we consume and consume without ever reflecting back upon it.
The internet is the jewel of our time. At least that’s the way I see it. And it provides for more information than we can ever acquire. In any field, that is. And much of that information is both powerful beyond words as well as partially applicable. And take our innate curiosity aside, and all we are left with when it comes to information consumption is the desire to apply as much as we can.
But as we all know, desire is one thing, while practice completely another.
How to apply almost everything that you consume
The real trick of this practice is habit. Namely, you’ve made a certain set of habits and it proved to be flawed to say the least. And a model which doesn’t work needs to be thoroughly rethought and eventually changed.
So instead of just trying to invest as much time as you can in acquiring knowledge and all sorts of information, I would suggest something slightly different.
Try and set aside a specific time frame in which you consume information. The time of the day is irrelevant, as well as device and media or source, since we are all different as to begin with.
However, once you reach the limit you had previously set, stop and try to record all the things that you found to be valuable, seemingly applicable to what you are, or plan to be doing; things that stroke a chord.
Try and map ideas, thoughts, what you came up with at the time, feelings even.
Do this for approximately the same amount of time which you used for consuming the information. What this does is creating a habit and conditioning you to think in the lines of application rather than consumption only. And it is not that you are not consuming enough information in the first place. You are, but this time only as much as you can carry at a time.
Write everything in a notebook and leave it be.
The next day start, even before acquiring information, by reading what you have previously written down. That way you create this continuous line where you access your ideas, your highlighted information in a rather linked format.
Other times, try and flip through the notebook, find something interesting and follow through. Expand the notes, the ideas, the concepts… This way nothing will go away, and you will have a sound sleep knowing that every one of your ideas has been stored and rinsed (something incredibly satisfying if you are a creative soul by nature, and neat and organized in addition).
Evernote may look a certain degree of fancy, and online solutions may indeed provide for great experiences. But sometimes the simplest solution tends to bring the most benefits. Consume with zeal, write it down, see how things can be applied, and keep it simple.