Couple of days ago I caught myself starting to forget stuff; Minor things, nothing to be alarmed for. What followed was sharing this concern with handful of my friends, and it turns out, lo and behold, they all experience the same thing to a certain degree.
And living in a world of short lived attention span, where almost everything seems to be designed so that you can quickly move on to the next item of business, it’s not a surprise that your memory goes up in smoke.
The information overload
The hearth of the issue is, as many of you already know, that we live in an information overload society. No sooner does one idea show up, the next rushes in at an egg-beater speed. And this is the reality which we exercise day in and day out. Everything is designed to fit into this frame of narrow attention span.
The products that we buy, the services we use, our media platforms and outlets… It seems as though multitasking has taken the first place in terms of importance long ago and its grip is only about to tighten. It is easy to see why.
Just look at how social media platforms are designed. The screen is full with information, where one only leads to another, and the scroll is infinite, giving you myriad of combinations.
Smartphones, on the account of pragmatism, are doing the same thing. But when is the line being drawn?
The average Joe is fed up with ideas he is either too slow to process, or too full to store. And here is where I noticed my lack of ability to keep track of everything that I read, everything that I come into contact with.
The ideas rush in, and they do so in waves, all at once. Whatever else might be said, this is getting a real exercise in frustration.
Where conversations can be substantially improved
We interact, within our society as a whole, as no other generation could have done before. The pace of life has itself increased, and as if that is not enough, we have myriad of tools creating myriad of interaction opportunities. While I can reach my friends over the phone, I can also contact them via Skype, Facebook, a Google hangout, instant text message, mail, and so on… This, combined with the number of ideas we are forced to store, punches a jagged hole in our ability to share those ideas. And this seems counterintuitive.
More interaction opportunities would provide for a better idea flow, right?
Not really. When one information is being introduced after another, idea after an idea, we barely keep track, yet alone try to associate them with people who we want to share them with.
And while saving your line of thinking might seem to be a solid idea, trying to pinpoint the person you want to share it with can be that more wiser.
The reason why different media platforms only make this harder is the same root problem- you lose track. You lose track on what you said to whom, and moreover never really open the possibility for a meaningful conversation to take place. No, a face-to-face scenario proves to be the best.
How to put this into practice?
In the significance of simplicity to sanity, I suggest keeping this as simple as it can be. Pen and paper are usually my best pick, but since ideas come and go at an egg-beater speed, I think something more in the lines of mobile applications. The smartphone is always there with you, so why not.
And while scores of articles have been written on even more apps, I think nothing can outshine Evernote. Not by a longshot.
How I go about this is simple- I open up a new note for each person I think I came up with something interesting to talk about and share, and write ideas down. Attaching a picture makes it even easier. And this notebook serves two ways.
First, at a minimum, you store ideas down. And this is enough even as it is.
Second, having all this notes into the notebook, you are often being reminded to actually meet with these people and talk. From experience, such meetings usually become very pleasant, precisely because they are intentional. Conversations thus, flow uninterrupted because you always have something to heat them up with. Where one idea might take off is hard to predict, but when it does you have a deep and meaningful conversation.
You can also consume content with the same level of mindfulness and initiative towards organization. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sam Harris podcast episodes lately, and ideas are rushing in at a staccato sequence. So what do I do? Simple – I take a screenshot of the audio player at the exact same minute where I hear something interesting and relevant, that some of my friends might like or appreciate. Something with the help of which we can have meaningful conversations. And I always practice this especially when it comes to people who I consider as my role models with some of their personal characteristics, ideas, and values.
On a side note, refining your informational diet so that you can end up with a routine that is not going to overfed you is always a plus. But even information overload, put against this technique that I just shared, seems fairly innocuous.
Interactions with others form a bigger part of our reality, so adding more substance by always remembering what you wanted to share is a big plus.
For this New Year I have an even more interesting proposal. This is an idea by Seth Godin, so the credit belongs entirely to him. Choose from one to three people that you are fond of, help your line of work, or simply enrich your life through meaningful conversations. Then, browse through your library and as a present buy them the three books that you think can lead towards interesting conversations. They will have one year to read them, and throughout this year you will always have something interesting to talk about.
Happy New Year guys, and have a great time tomorrow.